4 Clairton homes riddled with gunfire

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Shawn Smith was sleeping on the couch at his cousin's Waddell Avenue home in Clairton when he was jolted awake by gunfire exploding through the front window, just inches from where he lay.

Blocks away, at a quaint town home with cheery yellow siding in the 100 block of Baker Avenue, at least seven bullets pierced the front windows on the first and second floors, leaving spider webs of cracks in the glass.

Two other homes -- on Boundary and Halcomb avenues -- also were struck with gunfire in the same time frame, at around 3:30 a.m. Clairton police said a total of 40 bullets were fired into the four homes, and they believe the same pair of gunmen -- who witnesses said donned ski masks -- are responsible for the rampage.

They said little else about the shootings, except to indicate that they may have been retaliatory. Investigators with the Allegheny County police, who are handling the investigation, did not return phone calls.

Although police would not disclose any suspects, Tera Smith, who lives in the home that was struck by at least a dozen bullets on Waddell Avenue, said detectives told her the shootings may have been connected to the same strain of violence that befell her son.

Tauvea Hurt, 19, was killed at a New Year's Day party in 2011. A pair of brothers, Kevin and Lindsey Wright were arrested in his death, but only Kevin was convicted and is now serving a life sentence. Lindsey Wright was acquitted.

Prosecutors said Hurt was a casualty of a bloody feud between the brothers in the Hurt and Wright families. At the time of his death, Hurt, his brother Tyler and two other men were wanted on attempted homicide charges for shooting Kevin Wright in the face in October of 2010.

At his trial, prosecutors said Wright killed Hurt out of revenge.

In her living room, a portrait of a Hurt was perched on a high shelf below a painting that was struck by a pair of bullets. Mrs. Smith sat hunched over on a couch, watching the Clairton Bears make history on a television screen marred by a bullet hole. Their victory in the WPIAL championship over Sto-Rox High School was their 60th consecutive, breaking the state record. Their success has brought national media attention to the town in the last week, a beacon of good news in a community beset by violence.

Many of the players and coaches lived within earshot of the gunfire. Assistant coach Remondo Williams lives three blocks down from Mrs. Smith and went outside after the shooting and checked to see if there were any bodies in the street.

She pointed out the damage -- quarter-inch holes from bullets that flew across the living room and pierced the walls, damaged a painting and left the front window a mess of shards and holes. One bullet was fired into her 17-year-old son's bedroom upstairs and embedded into the ceiling. Had his bed been higher, he would have been struck, she said.

If she appeared tranquil, it was only because she was keeping up a front for her family. On the inside, she was a mess of nerves. She had not slept since being jolted awake by the rapid-fire gunshots and wore the weariness on her face.

"It's depressing more than anything," she said. "It almost feels like we're in a movie right now. It doesn't feel real."

But the victory of the Bears, whose players appeared as smudged figures on the damaged screen, "lifted my spirits," she said.

"There's still good left in Clairton," she said.

A few hours later, police sirens blared down the town's main drag, St. Clair Avenue. But this time, they were announcing the homecoming of champions, two yellow school buses full of young men.

neigh_south

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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