Months later, baby Marcus' killers remain at large
Police say toddler was innocent bystander during a family picnic when he was shot
January 18, 2014 11:22 PM
Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Timothy O’Connor speaks Saturday during a rally seeking justice for Marcus L. White Jr., a baby shot to death during a picnic in the East Hills.
By Sean D. Hamill / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
For 45 minutes Saturday afternoon, 40 people braved bone-chilling cold to come hold a rally with speeches, singing and call-and-response chants in a parking lot along Washington Boulevard in the East End.
The passion that brought them there was an ongoing effort to not let the public forget the horrific death of Marcus L. White Jr., a 15-month-old toddler who was shot and killed during a family picnic in East Hills with dozens of potential witnesses within sight on May 21, 2013 -- but whose killer has yet to be identified.
"We've had six rallies so far now," Melvin Hubbard, an aide to state Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, told the crowd. "And you even came out Jan. 18 in the cold because baby Marcus deserves our love, baby Marcus deserves our support, and baby Marcus deserves to have us keep this in the public eye."
The group, which included Marcus' mother, Jameela Tyler, came to the parking lot in front of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau's Zone 5 headquarters at the invitation of Zone 5 Cmdr. Timothy O'Connor.
It was Cmdr. O'Connor's hope that by holding the rally at the police station that more members of the public who might have a critical piece of information about the case would feel comfortable talking to police.
"This is why we need this" rally, he told the crowd, "to draw attention to this case. Because there are people out there who know who did this."
Even though the shooting occurred during daylight and in the midst of a public housing project where dozens of people were around, helpful descriptions of the three men believed to be involved in the shooting have been wanting. No one has been arrested.
Police believe that Marcus and two of his aunts who were with him and also shot, though they recovered, were not the intended targets of the men.
Despite the horror of the shooting, police have had a hard time getting people to talk.
Shanon Williams, an organizer with CeaseFirePa, said it is a part of the city where mistrust is high between police and the residents thanks to a recent past of high-profile incidents, including the 2010 beating and arrest of Jordan Miles, a high school student at the time, and the arrest of Pittsburgh schoolteacher Dennis Henderson after he shouted at a speeding police vehicle in Homewood last summer.
She said CeaseFirePa and other coalition groups, including The Coalition for Fathering Families, hoped Saturday's rally would help start rebuilding that trust and encourage skeptical residents to come forward with information.
"When people trust the people who police the neighborhood, they trust them to come forward with information," she said.
The rally also comes a month before Marcus would have turned 2, on Feb. 19, when the Pittsburgh City Council has said it will proclaim as Marcus L. White Jr. Day in his memory.
His mother said she appreciated the rally and hopefully "it will get peoples' attention."
Larry Davis, CEO of The Coalition for Fathering Families, which organized the rally along with CeaseFirePa, encouraged those in attendance to tell people to describe to police what they know about the shooting.
But first, he asked the small crowd, "turn to the person next to you and formally introduce yourself. This is the way we're going to stop killing one another. We have to formally introduce ourselves to each other.
"We shouldn't have to have another rally for the killing of a baby in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania," he said.
Sean D. Hamill: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2579.