A Johnstown man died early Sunday after being shot in the Coopersdale Homes neighborhood, investigators said.

Armel Joe, 26, was shot once in the abdomen at approximately 1:07 a.m. He was taken by ambulance to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, where the West End man died in the emergency room 30 minutes later, said Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees, who has ruled the incident a homicide.

The shooting apparently occurred during a late-night barbecue in the public housing neighborhood – and Johnstown Police said at least 74 people were at the scene at the time shots rang out.

"We need those people to come forward," Johnstown Police detective Mark Britton said. "There is someone who knows what happened, someone who saw what happened – if not 75 people who saw what happened."

Britton described the shooting as a "senseless and cowardice act" – and the person responsible for pulling the trigger deserves to be brought to justice.

"But there's only so much a police department can do ... without help," Britton said.

He urged anyone who might have a tip that could help police put together the night's events to "do the right thing" – and contact police. Anyone who wishes to speak to police directly can call the city detectives bureau at 533-2080, Britton said.

"The last thing we want is to have another homicide and another family upset by this," he said.

Investigators believe the incident was "isolated" and that the public is not at risk.

Cambria County District Attorney Greg Neugebauer said there's no indication Joe was being targeted.

"This was the first nice night of the springtime and with people moving from the red to yellow (COVID-19 safety phases), I think people were looking to get together a little bit for a cookout," Neugebauer said.

'I heard shots fired'

Aside from a few packed-full garbage cans, a few littered soda cans and an empty liquor bottle under the neighborhood's pavilion Sunday afternoon, there was no indication that a party – or a shooting – had occurred there the night before.

One Coopersdale resident said the party was relaxing and enjoyable until sometime after midnight.

Another attendee came her direction and urged people "to go inside," she said. The Coopersdale resident said she listened.

"The next thing I know, I heard shots fired," she said. "I ran to the window and there were just people scattering everywhere."

The woman declined to give her name, saying she was "shaken up" and didn't feel comfortable talking about it publicly. The woman said it was the first time "anything like this ever happened here."

She said: "And it'll be the last time for me, because I'm going to the office when they open Monday and letting them know I'm moving."

Lees said an autopsy was conducted on Joe at ForensixDX in Windber that revealed the West End man was struck by a bullet once in the abdomen and died from substantial blood loss due to his wound.

Looking for witnesses

At press conference Sunday, Neugebauer said police were pursuing leads from interviews that were already completed and reviewing video from the area. But he said there was no known footage of the shooting.

He declined comment when asked if any evidence or weapons were found Sunday. Britton said a state police crime lab will be processing several items but declined to elaborate.

Right now, "the public is our best asset," Britton added.

"We can only watch so much video," he said. "If you have a tip, please call."

Any piece of information – no matter how trivial it may seem, such as the clothing someone was wearing or a car spotted leaving the scene – "might be something that breaks the case open for us," Britton said.

Neugebauer also urged the public to provide help, saying tips can be left anonymously through the Tip 411 line or mobile "app" through https://cityofjohnstownpa.net/tip411-submit-a-tip – or by calling the Cambria County non-emergency number at 814 472-2100.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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