Violent Crime | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 3:30 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh rally for police-shooting victim Antwon Rose begs people to get politically involved
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Sign from a protester at June 21 rally in Downtown Pittsburgh
Leon Ford was shot in the back during a routine traffic stop six years ago, leaving him paralyzed. After years spent speaking out against police brutality, he recently settled a lawsuit with the city of Pittsburgh. He has since become an integral part of the city’s and the country’s police-reform movement.

On Thursday afternoon, Ford sat in his wheelchair at the Allegheny County Courthouse amid thousands protesting the shooting death of Antwon Rose.

“This is painful for me,” Ford said. “I fought for six years and I didn’t think this would be happening.”

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 at 3:41 PM

click to enlarge Local gun-reform advocates gather for letter-writing
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Wynonna Harper at last night's event
Seven hours into yesterday's filibuster on gun violence on the U.S. Senate floor, gun-reform advocates in Pittsburgh gathered at the Jerron Grayson Community Center for a meeting on gun reform. The event had been planned prior to the filibuster, after the June 12 shooting in Orlando, Fla., where 49 were killed and more than 50 were injured.

The location for the meeting was fitting. The Hill District is one of the areas locally most impacted by gun violence, and while it doesn't make national news, residents there face tragedy every day.

"What don't get told is the stories of gun violence that happen every day in our country," said Ayres Freitas, coordinator of Amnesty International Group 39. "Unfortunately when you hear about the places where gun violence is happening, people say, 'Oh you shouldn't live there, it's a bad neighborhood.' They just write it off."

The local branch of Amnesty International, along with CeaseFirePA, held the event to provide more information about everyday instances of gun violence and the pieces of legislation that have been proposed to address the problem at the state level. They also heard from two women who had lost loved ones to violence.

"These guns are horrendous out here, period," said Wynona Harper whose son was shot and killed in 2013. "We are losing our children."

Hours after the meeting, Harper's niece was shot in Garfield. According to a release by the city Department of Public Safety, the woman was taken to West Penn Hospital and is in stable condition.

During the meeting, Harper, who owns two guns, was critical of the current loophole that allows private gun owners to sell long guns such as, rifles, shotguns and semi-automatic rifles, without a background check.

"What I had to go through to obtain these guns. I don't know why everyone doesn't have to go through that process," said Harper.

Participants in yesterday's meeting wrote letters to Pennsylvania legislators in support of HB1010, which closes the background-check loophole, and HB1020, which would require gun owners to report if their firearms have been lost or stolen. Pittsburgh City Council passed a local lost-and-stolen ordinance in 2008, but it has never been enforced.

The advocates also wrote letters against HB921, which would get rid of Pennsylvania's instant background checks system.

"It's good to do marches. It's good to do vigils, but sometimes we need to do some seemingly mundane things like writing to legislators," said Rob Conroy, CeaseFirePa's director of organizing.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 6:45 PM

Pittsburgh Police make arrest in shooting of Muslim cab driver; won't confirm hate crime investigation
Mugshot provided by the Pittsburgh Police
Anthony Mohamed
Pittsburgh Police have arrested a 26-year-old Hazelwood man in connection with a nonfatal shooting of a Muslim taxi driver six days ago.

Pittsburgh police Lt. Vic Joseph announced at a press conference this afternoon that Anthony Mohamed was taken into custody at his residence in Hazelwood at around 10:45 this morning. Mohamed has been charged with aggravated assault, criminal attempted homicide, and recklessly endangering another person.
click to enlarge Pittsburgh Police make arrest in shooting of Muslim cab driver; won't confirm hate crime investigation
Photo by Ashley Murray
Pittsburgh Police Lt. Vic Joseph addressed the media about the case Wednesday afternoon at police headquarters.

Joseph said just that a "short period of time" elapsed between when the police identified the suspect and obtained the arrest warrant. He said identifying the suspect was a result of the collaboration between the Pennsylvania State Police, Rivers Casino (where the suspect entered the taxi), the Cranberry Taxi Company, and a Hazelwood insurance company.

The lieutenant would not reveal whether the shooting will be investigated as a hate crime — he repeatedly told media he would not get into details, as an investigation is ongoing. Following the shooting, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the shooting as a "Post-Paris" hate crime, and they also contacted Pittsburgh Police and the FBI.

According to Allegheny County court records, an Anthony Lamar Mohamed, with the same birth date as the suspect police arrested, has criminal convictions dating back to 2008 when he was sentenced to five months imprisonment for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. He pled guilty in January 2011 to charges of criminal trespass, making terroristic threats, simple assault, theft, harassment and criminal trespass. He was sentenced to one year probation. In April 2011, he pled guilty to charges of defiant trespass, simple assault of a victim under 12 and endangering the welfare of children. He was given two years probation. Last year, Mohamed pled guilty to DUI and driving with a suspended or revoked license and sentenced to six months probation.

"I think we would like to commend the police for having investigated [the case] and using all the evidence they could gather," Safdar Khwaja, of CAIR's Pittsburgh chapter, told City Paper over the phone. "I think they need to continue to probe the bias motive they have to follow. That’s what we will be asking them to do."

Khwaja said he's concerned, however, that the suspect's last name could be an obstacle to a hate crime investigation.

"Of course the person they arrested, his last name sounds like he would be a Muslim. That is not necessarily true. The police still need to examine the hate motive of what took place in the taxi," he says.

According to details that the 38-year-old driver, who has not been identified, shared with the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the passenger began asking him about his ethnicity and talking about ISIS. The driver said he told the man that he is Moroccan and is an American. The driver said that when he reached the passenger's house, he asked the driver to wait while he retrieved his wallet but instead retrieved a rifle. A Department of Public Safety announcement, released on Nov. 26 but updated today, says that a bullet blew out  the rear window of the cab and struck the driver in the back.

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Police make arrest in shooting of Muslim cab driver; won't confirm hate crime investigation
Photo by Ashley Murray
According to Pittsburgh Police, the victim was driving driving outbound on Second Avenue in Hazelwood when he was struck in the back by a bullet as he drove between Flowers Avenue and Tecumseh Street.
Police spokesperson Sonya Toler wrote in an email to CP that  "the victim did not initially present to investigators the details he shared with the Post-Gazette."

Joseph would not reveal what the police learned about the suspect's statements to the taxi driver and that he could not "speak to what the victim may have told CAIR or anybody else."

The DOJ has not responded to multiple phone calls for comment, but Khwaja says that DOJ reached out to a number of local mosques and CAIR to offer "counseling and discussions." 

The FBI also says it's investigating. "We're reviewing the matter as we do all crimes that appear to be racially motivated, and we are working with city police," said FBI Pittsburgh's Supervisory Special Agent Gregory Heeb.

Earlier this week, the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh published a frustrated message on its homepage, calling the police's investigation "completely inappropriate and insufficient," citing a lack of communication from the city and police.

Mayor Peduto's office says that it's been in communication with the Pittsburgh's Muslim community during the investigation though, and "as recently as today" spoke with Islamic Center officials.

"The Mayor is a longtime supporter of the Islamic Center and of the Muslim community in Pittsburgh, has an office dedicated to outreach to both longtime and new members of the Pittsburgh community (called Welcoming Pittsburgh)," Tim McNulty, the mayor's spokesperson, wrote in an email. "And this commitment to the Muslim community has never wavered."

The Islamic Center did not respond to inquiries for elaboration. 

"It’s not going to be a prolonged investigation," Joseph told the media. "We're still going through evidence and once all is investigated, it will be concluded."

Chief Cameron McLay released a statement this evening that he and his staff met with the executive director of the Islamic Center, Wasiullah Mohamed.  Full text of the statement can be found below.

"Members of my staff and I met with the Executive Director of the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network this afternoon. I was able to provide them with an update on our investigation into the Thanksgiving Day shooting in Hazelwood, the timeline for Police Bureau investigative efforts, and some details about the arrest that was announced earlier today.

We debriefed the investigative process so both sides understood how the investigation unfolded, why that was necessary, and, most importantly, how the community perceived the unfortunate sequence of events. All agreed communication would have helped dispel misconceptions and we all have agreed to work together from this point forward.

The rest of our discussion was centered upon how we move forward to improve communication and trust between the police and our Islamic communities. There will be a joint press conference in the near future to outline our collective plan for collaborative partnership."

Editor's note: This report was updated at 8:20 p.m. to include Chief McLay's statement, sent to the media at 7:39 p.m.

City Paper Editor Charlie Deitch contributed to this report.


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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Posted By on Tue, Sep 15, 2015 at 3:53 PM

So far in the month of September there have been at least ten shootings in the city of Pittsburgh. This comes after a summer where there were at least 80 shootings throughout the city from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Today members from several Pittsburgh community organizations gathered at Freedom Unlimited in the Hill District to respond to these incidents.

click to enlarge Community groups respond to recent violence
Photo by Rebecca Nuttall
Members of different community groups gathered in the Hill District
"We are collectively once again calling upon all persons who have committed and those who are contemplating any act of violence to please think twice," said Tim Stevens, co-convener of the Coalition Against Violence. "And then think again, about how their acts of violence affect the loved ones of those who are shot and/or killed and the profoundly negative affects upon themselves and their futures."

After reading off a detailed list accounting the recent shootings throughout the city, those in attendance talked about how their groups are working to address violence and what more can be done.

"From 1994, when I lost my son, until now, I don't see any difference. In fact, it's gotten worse," said Adrienne Young who lost her son more than twenty years ago. "But there's more of us than there are of them."

Also present were representatives from CeaseFirePA, the Black Political Empowerment Project, Center for Victims of Violent Crime and Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder (MAD DADS).

"I will be attending my 188th funeral of a young black male that I've worked with from the year 2000," said Richard Carrington, founder of Voices Against Violence. "When are we going to say enough is enough?"

The Coalition Against Violence is currently updating materials on preventing violent crime. Current editions can be found here.

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