Slain woman's friends want specific law in Pittsburgh police handling of 911 calls

A march Saturday of more than 100 people honoring Ka'Sandra Wade's life was also a call to save other women from a similar death.

Ms. Wade, 33, of Larimer was found dead in her Lowell Street home New Year's Day, nearly a day after two Pittsburgh police officers responded to her 911 call. The officers left the home after Ms. Wade's boyfriend, Anthony L. Brown, 51, told police through a window that they could not enter the house. Mr. Brown took his own life early in the morning of Jan. 2 after a standoff with police. He left a note during the standoff suggesting police could have saved Ms. Wade's life.

Officers never spoke directly to Ms. Wade.

At Saturday's vigil in East Liberty, Shauna Ponton, a former co-worker at Action United who described Ms. Wade as one of her best friends, said the group hoped the attention drawn to this case will lead to specific laws requiring officers to speak directly to a person who calls 911.

"The police showing up and not speaking to a female in the household is definitely wrong. Something needs to be done to prevent this from happening again because if they would have checked on her, maybe she would be alive today," she said.

Action United campaign manager Maryellen Deckard said the organization is planning a forum of low- and moderate-income women who have experienced domestic violence to discuss how to shape a law regarding how officers respond to situations where domestic abuse is a possibility.

She said the Women's Law Project would draft the suggestions into a bill, to be named "Ka'Sandra's Law," to be presented to both city and county councils. She said they hope to see a law passed by March 8, which is International Women's Day.

The march and vigil was hosted by Ms. Wade's former co-workers at Action United, a community organization that supports the interests of low- and moderate-income residents. Lead by a group of children holding light boards that spelled out "Ka'Sandra," the group marched from 5700 Penn Ave. to the steps of Eastminster Presbyterian Church on North Highland Avenue, where they released pink heart-shaped balloons in her memory.

The group also announced a trust fund that has been established for Ms. Wade's 10-year-old son, Zaire Brown, through PNC Bank.

City Councilman Bill Peduto, who attended the vigil, seconded the idea of a policy for police speaking directly to individuals who call 911, but added that the city must do more to enforce lost and stolen handgun ordinances and become engaged in a national discussion on gun violence.

"We're here today with Action United and other community leaders because we believe we can solve this issue, we don't have to just light candles and march," said Mr. Peduto, who is running for mayor in the Democratic primary in May. "We've stood together many times lighting candles and marching but the fact is that we have to address it from a gun violence perspective, we have to address it from a domestic violence perspective, and there are policies we can do to make sure this life wasn't taken in vain."

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Deborah M. Todd: or 412-263-1652. First Published January 13, 2013 5:00 AM


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