Crime | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 at 1:34 PM

click to enlarge Children of couple killed in Tree of Life mourn their parents and share their story
Photo courtesy the Simon family
Sylvan and Bernice Simon
Alleged shooter Robert Bowers killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue on Saturday in Squirrel Hill. The congregants were attending a bris, and among the victims were Bernice and Sylvan Simon.

Many family members of the victims have remained quiet in their time of mourning. This mass shooting is believed to the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Bernice and Sylvan Simon were 84 and 86 years old respectively. They were married at Tree of Life 62 years ago. Their children wanted to share their feelings about the death of Bernice and Sylvan. A statement from the children was sent to City Paper from KDKA, who asked CP to share it here:

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 1:22 PM

Pittsburgh’s recent library theft was one of the largest in history. Learn how other thefts stack up
Photo courtesy Piotrus, Creative Commons
Carnegie Library Main Branch in Oakland
In 2017, the Allegheny County District Attorney began investigating a suspected theft from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Special Collections room. On Friday, two men were charged with multiple counts of theft, forgery and other related crimes. Greg Priore, a former librarian at CLP in charge of the Special Collections, did the smuggling. John Schulman, owner of Caliban Book Shop in Oakland, sold them at his store and on eBay. The total value of the theft was more than $8 million, accumulated over 20 years.

The crimes of bibliomaniacs often fly under the radar likely due to the decline of libraries’ popularity and infrastructure. Even so, book thieves can extract millions of dollars worth of material, especially when stealing libraries’ rarest books. With that in mine City Paper wanted to inform readers about some other interesting library thefts from around the world. One case even led to a law making library theft a criminal offense in Pennsylvania.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 1:18 PM

click to enlarge Homicide charges filed against Michael Rosfeld, the officer who fatally shot Antwon Rose
CP photo by Jared Wickerham
Stephen Zappala
Allegheny County district attorney Stephen Zappala announced Wednesday that criminal homicide charges are being filed against Michael Rosfeld, the East Pittsburgh police officer who shot and killed Antwon Rose.

Zappala said at a news conference that Rose, a 17-year-old from Rankin, was sitting in the front passenger seat of a car involved in a drive-by shooting in North Braddock on June 19. Zappala said video evidence shows shots fired out of the back seat of that car, and the shooter was wearing a dark shirt.

Rose was wearing a white shirt.

“By all accounts, Mr. Rose didn't do anything resembling any crimes,” said Zappala.

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Posted By on Sat, Jun 23, 2018 at 2:25 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh protests of slain teen Antwon Rose extend into weekend
CP photo by Jared Wickerham
Scene from Antwon Rose protest on June 22
More than 200 hundred people marched from Freedom Corner in the Hill District to Point State Park on Saturday afternoon — a fourth consecutive day of protests in the name of late teenager Antwon Rose.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Posted By on Mon, Jan 15, 2018 at 3:53 PM

click to enlarge Activists call for continuing protests and boycott of Pizza Milano after alleged assault
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Protesters outside Pizza Milano in Uptown on Jan. 15
On Jan. 12, an employee at the Uptown pizza restaurant, Pizza Milano, was caught on video apparently headbutting a woman and tackling her to the ground. The employee, Mahmut Yilmaz, has been charged with one count of aggravated assault and one charge of simple assault. The woman, Jade Martin, sustained injuries and was taken to the hospital following the incident.

The night of the incident, a video was posted on Facebook, and the video went viral. Activists, Pittsburgh residents and community leaders responded over the weekend by protesting in front of Pizza Milano. Those protests continued on Jan. 15, as a group of 50 protesters, gathered in front of Pizza Milano, calling for stronger actions against Yilmaz.

“We will not stand for any abuse of our women,” said Pittsburgh resident Nicky Jo Dawson to the crowd.

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 5:07 PM

click to enlarge Gun-violence rates drop in Pittsburgh, Police Chief McLay credits community-policing tactics
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay
Compared to last year, non-fatal shooting crimes were down in Pittsburgh, according to statistics released by the FBI this week. From January 2016 to August 2016, there were 25 less non-fatal shootings and about 70 less aggravated assaults with a firearm compared to the same time frame in 2015. (However, there were 44 homicides this year, up 10 from the same period in 2015.)

In a press conference on Sept. 30, Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay detailed how community-policing strategies, such as outreach, were effective in lowering these numbers. He said these strategies were  particularly effective in the North Side, given that many neighborhoods there saw significant reductions in violent crime.

“We were very targeted at those who were actually causing the violence,” said McLay. “Since most of the offenders there did not actually live there.” McLay said he wanted his officers to only target those committing the crimes. “I wanted to convey [to residents] that ‘We care about you, we love you, we don’t want you to fall victim to violence.’ That is why outreach is important.”

McLay also explained how in the East End, his officers have worked with the Pittsburgh chapter of Men Against Destruction-Defending Against Drugs and Social-Disorder (MAD DADS) over the last year. He said the work has reduced violent activity in East Liberty and Homewood. “We have seen a dramatic decrease in [complaints] in the East Liberty business district,” said McLay. “In the Homewood business district, businesses have reported less loitering and people are feeling safer.”

McLay said the working relationship with the volunteers at MAD DADS helps to increase communication with the community because “some people are not comfortable talking to the police.”

But McLay says there are still many problems to address. Violence rates are still disproportionately higher among blacks, particularly young black men. And McLay says his department will be paying special attention to Downtown, particularly the area around the Wood Street T Station, which has seen a flurry of criminal activity.

Over, McLay said he will continue to institute community-policing strategies and rejects the notion the department needs to be “tough on crime.” He points to the work with MAD DADS in the East End as proof, as crime rates have dropped there.

‘Community policing is crime prevention,” said McLay. “It reduces crime. It is not just a feel-good strategy.”

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 1:22 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh-area residents revisit scene of last week's mass shooting in Wilkinsburg (2)
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
A crowd gathers on Franklin Avenue in Wilkinsburg.
As the wind whipped through the trees on a blustery evening in Wilkinsburg, a group of nearly 50 marched up Franklin Avenue, pleading with residents to come forward with information related to last week's mass shooting that took the lives of five adults and an unborn child. 

"People's faces were blown off," said Rose Brice. "People can't even lay their kids out [at funeral homes]. A baby was killed before it was born. And you're shutting your doors to this." 

The March 9 shooting took place in the evening at a backyard barbecue at 1301 Franklin Ave. According to officials, the shooters approached the backyard from opposite sides before opening fire with an AK-47 and 40-caliber handgun.

"Family is about more than blood," Fred "Fu" Underwood said steps from the house where the shooting took place. "Your family is bigger than you know. These people are our family and anytime you lose family, it hurts."

click to enlarge Pittsburgh-area residents revisit scene of last week's mass shooting in Wilkinsburg
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Rose Brice releases balloons baring the names of the victims
Last night's rally brought together a coalition of community groups and Pittsburgh-area residents fighting to decrease violence in the region. 

"I want to do whatever I can to stop the violence in my community," Jennifer Tracy said on her reason for attending the rally. "I'm for gun control. I'm for banning guns. People need to support stronger gun laws."

Also among them was Jay Gilmer, Pittsburgh's administrator for the the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police's Group Violence Intervention program.

"I'm here because we're concerned about violence wherever it is. Just because it's outside of the city doesn't mean it doesn't effect us. This impacts all of us," Gilmer said. "The Group Violence Intervention Strategy is one that should be embraced by surrounding boroughs so that it can be most effective. More deliberate collaboration by law enforcement can only benefit everyone."

Last night's rally was the culmination to a day of outreach for Rev. Janet Hellner of the Christian Church of Wilkinsburg who was door-knocking on the street and praying with residents earlier. Together with others from her church she says they prayed with approximately 12 households. 

"It's devastating and our hearts are broken," said Hellner. "A lot of people here have been working on peace and justice issues for a long time. I said to my congregation Sunday, 'I'm tired, but I'm not weary.' There are people of tremendous goodwill working in Wilkinsburg." 

Hellner said after the funerals for the victims she and other members of the Wilkinsburg community will begin looking at next steps for preventing more tragedies. At the end of the march, others also voiced their plans for addressing violence moving forward.

"We need to do this more often. Let's walk the streets so the kids can stay out of the streets," said Godfrey McCray. "This is everyday for us." 

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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Mar 10, 2016 at 5:04 PM

Allegheny County officials say nearly 50 shots fired in Wednesday night's mass shooting in Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg
Photo by Ryan Deto
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald at today's press conference
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald held a press conference this afternoon along with several regional officials involved in the investigation of last night's mass shooting in the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg

"We've been very fortunate that we've been joined with a lot of help from folks around the region, folks from the federal government, the ATF, local law enforcement, Wilkinsburg, the county, all pitching in," said Fitzgerald. "We have folks from our human-services department, department of behavior health dealing with the tragedy in Wilkinsburg.

"This is something no community wants to deal with, no community wants to have to face. It's a sad, sad day for us in this region."

Officials would not provide information on suspects in the case but said they fled on foot. Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffat said the three living victims in the shooting have been cooperative.

"We don't have any firm suspects. In other words, we don't have enough at this time to make any arrests. We don't have enough to even mandate that we pull someone in," said Moffat. "We're looking at two shooters based on the crime scene. The shell casings indicate there are two separate weapons, and the bullet fragments we got from the victims indicate there are two weapons. We have not recovered any weapons at the scene."

Moffatt said officials believe nearly 50 shots were fired.

"It appears at this time that most of the victims suffered multiple wounds," said Moffat. "At this time we can't determine exactly how many [bullet-wound] exits and how many entrances."

Moffat also supported the theory explained earlier today by District Attorney Stephen Zappala who said the assailants approached the backyard from two different directions. 

"It appears [the victims] were targeted," said Moffat. "It appears that some of the victims were trying to get into the doorway. A male was shot and went down, and then the females were trying to get over him. They were shot from that position also trying to get into the home."

click to enlarge Allegheny County officials say nearly 50 shots fired in Wednesday night's mass shooting in Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg
Photo by Ryan Deto
Wilkinsburg Police Chief Ophelia Coleman
Those with information on the shooting should contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at 1-800-ATF-GUNS. 

"We joined this investigation this morning to assist Allegheny County police department in solving this senseless homicide. The ATF is prepared to offer a up to $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this heinous act," said Chris Taylor, a assistant special agent with the ATF. "We're making every available resource available to the superintendent to solve this crime and bring these perpetrators to justice."  

According to Taylor, “The accuracy of the shooters was high. One woman had [dozens of] bullet wounds in her.” Regarding the AK-47 and 40-caliber weapons used in the shooting Taylor said, “Models like that are cheap and popular. You can buy them anywhere, gun shows, etc.”

Officials say Franklin Avenue, where the shooting took place, hasn't seen a lot of problems in the past. Wilkinsburg Police Chief Ophelia Coleman said she believes there were seven homicides in Wilkinsburg last year, almost level with the number of victims last night.

"I'd like to see more money coming to our neighborhood in order to hire more police officers. But we all know having more does not mean you will be free of crime," said Coleman. "I feel that the officers we have in the Wilkinsburg police department have done an admirable job.

"It is what it is. You have people of the criminal element that are just hellbent on disruption, chaos and confusion." 

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Posted By on Thu, Mar 10, 2016 at 3:21 PM

click to enlarge Mass shooting in Pittsburgh suburb leaves five dead, three injured
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffat (left in tie) speaks to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala (right in windbreaker) at the scene of a mass shooting outside Pittsburgh Wednesday night.
After a mass shooting in the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilkinsburg last night took the lives of five and injured three more, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala returned to the scene of the shooting earlier today to meet with the victims' families and address the public.

“The murders were planned, they were calculated, brutal," Zappala said. "We haven’t seen something like this for quite some time, if we’ve ever seen this type of planning in terms of taking life."

Witnesses claim there was a barbecue taking place at 1304 Franklin Ave. when two shooters approached the backyard from opposite sides. One approached via the alleyway behind the home and opened fire. According to Zappala, when witnesses tried to run toward the home, they were met by another shooter who approached from the side of the house.

"It was an ambush," Zappala told members of the media. "It wasn't like someone was squeezing off shot after shot. It 
click to enlarge Mass shooting in Pittsburgh suburb leaves five dead, three injured
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
The shootings took place in the backyard of this Wilkinsburg home
was really methodical, very calculated."

At 10:54 p.m. yesterday, Wilkinsburg Police were dispatched in response to a 911 call regarding the shooting. Detectives believe one of the assailants was using an AK-47 and the other was using a 40-caliber handgun.

"There's a lot of different theories," said Zappala. "We've taken several different scenarios off the table already and the detectives are working backwards. We think possibly one, maybe two, people were targeted. The rest of the people would be fairly characterized as innocent."

Earlier today, the Allegheny County medical examiner identified the five victims of last night’s shooting. The victims were: 35-year-old Jerry Shelton, 37-year-old Tina Shelton, 27-year-old Brittany Powell, 25-year-old Chanetta Powell and 26-year-old Shada Mahone. According to the medical examiner, Jerry Shelton, Brittany Powell and Chanetta Powell are siblings.

According to police, "two of the three victims that were in area hospitals remain there in critical condition. The third, the female victim, was treated and released."

"I knew them all, and I loved them all," said neighbor June Howard. 
click to enlarge Mass shooting in Pittsburgh suburb leaves five dead, three injured
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Wilkinsburg Mayor John Thompson
"They were all nice girls and they were good to the neighborhood. They were massacred." 

Wilkinsburg Mayor John Thompson was among those at the scene today.

"My heart goes out to the families in this community. These are some truly dangerous individuals," said Thompson, who has lived in Wilkinsburg for more than 30 years and served as the borough's mayor for 12. "I think it brings up the conversation we need to have around gun control. This is the worst type of violence I've ever seen."

Also on hand to offer support were members of the Greater Pittsburgh Area MAD DADS (Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder) who have been working in Wilkinsburg for several years.

"This strikes at the heart here," said MAD DADS President George Spencer. "We have mothers murdered here. Children were at the scene. It's tragic. We don't know why it happened."

"We've always been a presence in Wilkinsburg, and this is on a whole other level of violence," said Ernest Bey, a MAD DADS member. "We're still trying to wrap our heads around it and just praying for the families."
click to enlarge Mass shooting in Pittsburgh suburb leaves five dead, three injured
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Members of the Greater Pittsburgh Area chapter of MAD DADS gather in Wilkinsburg Thursday morning.

Across town at a press conference in the Strip District about raising the minimum wage, local and state officials weighed in on the tragedy in Wilkinsburg. Gov. Tom Wolf said, “Gun violence is tied to poverty and 40 percent of Wilkinsburg is in poverty.

“I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but we need to make sure that that right does not extend to criminals .... We need more legislation on background checks and mental health. We need to step up in Harrisburg and do our jobs.”

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald also responded to the incident. In response to how leaders need to respond to the shooting, Fitzgerald said, “We have to stick together.”

“It is tragic that on the first spring day, a family decided to have a backyard barbecue to enjoy the weather, and this happened," Fitzgerald added. “It shatters what we think of community.”

(Ryan Deto contributed to this story.)

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