Pittsburgh school police were on alert for Brashear shooting suspect
After October beating, alleged gunman dropped out of school
November 15, 2013 12:02 AM
Darrell Sapp / Post-Gazette
Andre Umphrey, 20, of Sheraden, talks about his brother, Andrew, who was one of three students shot along Crane Avebue near Pittsburgh Brashear High School in Beechview.
Audrey Umphrey, 80, of Sheraden talks about her grandson, Andrew, who is expected to have long-term vision damage after being shot Wednesday.
Traffic backs up as school buses come and go at Pittsburgh Brashear High School early Thursday morning. There is tightened security on the heels of Wednesday's shooting.
A student walks to Pittsburgh Brashear High School early Thursday morning.
By Liz Navratil and Jonathan D. Silver / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
When Anjohnito Willet stopped attending classes after being beaten up last month at Brashear High School, Pittsburgh Public Schools police kept alert for him, concerned he might do something in retaliation if he returned.
"The school officers were keeping an eye out, were on the alert to look for him if he came back to school," district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said Thursday night. "They had heard rumors. They had heard that comments were made that this individual could want to do something.
"I really can't give you specifics," Ms. Pugh said. "They received information that led them to believe they needed to be watchful if the student were to come to school."
They were right to be concerned, according to Pittsburgh police.
Pittsburgh police said Anjohnito, known as A.J., handled the problem with his alleged attackers by training a handgun on them and opening fire Wednesday in a mid-afternoon ambush near the school in Beechview.
He was arrested later that day and charged as an adult with attempted homicide and various other crimes.
Police said Anjohnito wounded three students, two of whom had been charged as juveniles for assaulting him in a school hallway 26 days earlier.
One of the students, Andrew Umphrey, 17, who was struck in the head, is expected to have long-term damage to his vision, according to his family. Andrew was not involved in the Oct. 18 fight, which school police classified as an attempted robbery.
Also shot were DaJour Jones, 15, and Robert "Eugene" Minor III, 17. School police charged both in the fight with Anjohnito, as well as a third youth who was believed to have served as a lookout.
The fight last month, which occurred near some lockers shortly before the school's 2:46 p.m. dismissal time, left Anjohnito with a "very minor injury," Ms. Pugh said.
Schools superintendent Linda Lane said Thursday that she had no information to lead her to question how the district handled the October fight.
School officials disciplined several students. Robert's father said his son was suspended for about a week.
After the incident, Anjohnito's parents had "expressed interest in transferring him," Ms. Pugh said. But the paperwork was never filed, and Anjohnito simply did not show up again.
The juvenile charges against the three students accused of attacking Anjohnito are pending, Ms. Pugh confirmed.
However, police said Anjohnito has not been cooperating with the investigation.
"That makes it very difficult to pursue what needed to be pursued, frankly," said Ms. Lane. Pittsburgh police have said they thought the shooting occurred because Anjohnito was seeking revenge for the attempted robbery, which they said was drug-related.
Robert's father, Robert Minor, said his son was not the aggressor in the October incident, and he disputed that it was drug-related.
"Mr. Minor said his son is 6 feet 2 and 230 pounds but is not a bully. Anjohnito is 6 feet tall and weighs about 170 pounds, according to court records.
Robert, who was shot in the head, was expected to be released Thursday from UPMC Mercy.
Robert's father said his son was "pretty good" both physically and mentally, but that he was scared to return to Brashear.
"I think his head, he's pretty good," the elder Robert Minor said. "I don't know overall. I'm not thinking it was the school's fault or nothing, but I wouldn't want to send him back to school being that [Anjohnito's] from the area."
Police said Anjohnito also aimed at Robert's cousin, Jaymond Eberhardt, 16, but missed him.
DaJour recovered at home from gunshots wounds to the left elbow and ankle after he was released Wednesday night from Allegheny General Hospital.
The third victim, Andrew Umphrey, has a lot of pain and is expected to suffer long-term vision problems because of the damage the bullet did to his skull and brain, according to his grandmother.
"He won't be blind, but his sight won't be like before," Audrey Umphrey, 80, said.
Ms. Umphrey, who is raising Andrew and her deceased daughter's two other children, said she was watching Dr. Phil on television when the news cut in about the shooting.
"I just didn't connect the dots. I never thought it was him," Ms. Umphrey said.
A short while later the phone rang. Andrew's brother, Andre, 20, picked up. It was someone from the school calling on Andrew's cell phone. The person told Andre that his brother had been shot.
"[Andre] just kind of, like, screamed. Then he came in and said, 'Grandma, Andrew got shot, and he got shot in the head,' " Ms. Umphrey said.
Andre Umphrey said he was able to speak with his brother by phone despite the young man's injuries.
"He was talking to me for a while. He said he was good," Mr. Umphrey said. "I just told him, 'Be strong.' "
The Umphrey family has been touched by violence before. Andrew's mother was Andrea Umphrey, a choir director who was killed by gunfire after her estranged boyfriend kidnapped her and the couple's baby daughter in 2004.
"I never thought I'd have to go through it again," Ms. Umphrey said.
The Minor family has also been affected by violence. Mr. Minor, 37, said he is a paraplegic from a 1995 shooting.
A news report at the time said he was shot in the back in Westgate Village when he was 19. Another man also was wounded in that shooting.
With Anjohnito's arrest and arraignment at 5 a.m. Thursday, new details emerged from police paperwork filed in court.
Shortly before the Wednesday shooting, Anjohnito told a friend they needed to walk a boy home from school, according to court documents.
The 16-year-old suspect and the friend walked from Rockland Avenue, where Anjohnito lives, toward the school on Crane Avenue less than a mile away.
They took a shortcut, passing through a wooded area.
The witness, who is not named in a criminal complaint, told police that when they came close to the end of the wooded area, a "large group of students" came into view.
Willet told the witness they no longer had to meet the third teenager and the witness began walking back toward Beechview, police wrote in the complaint.
"Witness 1 said that as he/she turned away from Willet they heard approximately 3 gunshots that were extremely loud and in very close proximity to them," police wrote. "Witness 1 further relayed that he/she immediately turned and looked towards Willet, who Witness 1 observed to now be in possession of a firearm and shooting towards Crane Avenue."
Pittsburgh police found Anjohnito when they surrounded his home on Rockland Avenue and one next to it shortly after the shooting, which was first reported at 2:50 p.m. Police later found at a nearby home a gun they think is tied to the shooting. They also found an Adidas backpack and a .22-caliber magazine.
Anjohnito has been charged as an adult with four counts of attempted homicide, four counts of aggravated assault, four counts of reckless endangerment and a gun violation.
His father declined comment as he left the police bureau's North Side headquarters about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday after questioning, and no one answered the door at their home Thursday.
Liz Navratil: email@example.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. Jonathan D. Silver: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1962. Eleanor Chute, Moriah Balingit, Lexi Belculfine and Molly Born contributed.