Shooting at desert rave east of Phoenix kills 1, injures another | Phoenix New Times


Shooting at desert rave east of Phoenix kills 1, injures another

The deadly incident occurred on Sunday morning at the all-night unlicensed dance party.
John Bunyard (left) with girlfriend Ashtyn O'Hara at a desert rave on Sunday hours before they were shot.
John Bunyard (left) with girlfriend Ashtyn O'Hara at a desert rave on Sunday hours before they were shot. Symon Kitchen
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Arizona’s electronic dance music scene is in mourning after a shooting on Sunday following a desert rave east of Phoenix killed one of the event’s co-promoters and critically injured another.

Witnesses told Phoenix New Times the shooting occurred at approximately 9:40 a.m. on Sunday after the conclusion of Program Your Reality, an unlicensed all-night dance party that took place in the desert south of U.S. Highway 60 outside of Superior.

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call reporting the incident and said the suspected gunman, 29-year-old Daniel Schmitt, allegedly attempted to steal a vehicle before shooting two people.

One victim, John Bunyard, a 35-year-old who performed as DJ ColdPress, died at the scene. The second victim hasn't been identified by law enforcement. But witnesses at the event said it's Ashtyn O'Hara, Bunyard's girlfriend. She was taken to a Valley hospital and is in stable condition, according to media reports.

Schmitt was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The sheriff's office said he called 911 to report the shooting.

Also Sunday, a house party in Phoenix also turned deadly. Carlos Vences Jr., 23, died from gunshot wounds sustained at a party near Camelback Road and 55th Avenue, according to the Phoenix Police Department. When officers arrived about 2:30 a.m., hundreds of attendees were fleeing what police described as a "chaotic scene."

Friends of rave shooting victims to host memorial fundraiser

The desert rave was organized and promoted by Bunyard and O’Hara’s company, Club Dezzi, and had reportedly gone smoothly prior to the shooting. An estimated 50 to 100 people attended the event.

Desert raves have become a popular occurrence in the Valley’s EDM scene for more than a decade. The all-night dance parties, which feature local DJs performing on sound systems powered by generators, typically take place in the desert wilderness on the far outskirts of the Valley.

Like most raves, Program Your Reality was touted as featuring an atmosphere of PLUR, a common ethos in rave culture that stands for “peace, love, unity and respect.” The event’s Facebook page warned that “physical/verbal abuse [would] not be tolerated.”

Symon Kitchen, who filmed the rave and performed as DJ MetaZone, told New Times the event went smoothly prior to the shooting.

“It was one of the tightest-run parties I’d ever been to,” she said. “There were no problems or drama the entire night.”

Bunyard and O’Hara “really enjoyed” putting on desert raves and had been looking forward to Program Your Reality, including purchasing a new Pioneer XDJ-XZ mixing console for the event. Bunyard performed one of the final DJ sets at Program Your Reality and “looked like he was having so much fun,” Kitchen says.

“It’s very sad what happened, but John got to spend his final hours having this beautiful experience doing what he loved,” she says.

Friends of Bunyard and O'Hara are organizing a memorial event and fundraiser for the couple called Keep PLUR Alive on Friday at Club Endgame, 1201 S. Alma School Road in Mesa. More than a dozen local DJs are scheduled to perform, including FairyDvst, 8 Bit Cypher, Terravox, Mind Detergent, Nasty Nos, River Phlo and Fresh Wet.

Bunyard's family has also launched a GoFundMe to help pay for his funeral and memorial, as well as O'Hara's medical expenses.  
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