Pittsburgh suspect surrenders in Oakland homicide

Man charged with slaying of ex-football player

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One day after police released him, a Lincoln-Lemington man surrendered in connection with the weekend shooting death of a former Slippery Rock University football player in Oakland.

Isiah Smith, 22, walked into the Pittsburgh police bureau's North Side headquarters accompanied by his attorney and relatives. His older brother kissed him on the head while two homicide detectives walked him out of the building and placed him in a car for transport to the Allegheny County Jail.

Mr. Smith faces charges of homicide, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment in connection with the death of Zachary Sheridan, 24, of Brookline.

His attorney, Blaine Jones, presented a version of events in which he characterized Mr. Sheridan as "the aggressor." But police wrote in a criminal complaint that surveillance video shows that Mr. Sheridan had turned away and was running across the street when Mr. Smith raised a gun and fired a shot.

The events unfolded about 3:30 a.m. Saturday, when a University of Pittsburgh police sergeant heard a shot fired near the corner of Forbes Avenue and Bouquet Street and called over the radio for help from Pittsburgh police.

Shortly after the shooting, detectives spoke to a person who was with Mr. Sheridan that night. The witness, who is not named in court documents, told police that Mr. Sheridan and his friends ate inside the Original Hot Dog Shop and saw the group with whom they would later have a confrontation.

The friend told police they left the restaurant and joked with a woman in a car. The woman said she was offended and Mr. Sheridan apologized, according to his friend.

A short time later, the woman, two other men and two men -- including Mr. Smith -- came outside and confronted Mr. Sheridan and his friends.

Mr. Sheridan's friend told detectives Mr. Smith began saying, "I'm hood. I'm from the hood" and pointed a gun at the head of the third man in their group, Nicholas Rotunda. Mr. Sheridan intervened and knocked Mr. Smith to the ground.

Video shows that Mr. Smith stood up and walked toward Mr. Rotunda and Mr. Sheridan stepped between them and hit Mr. Smith, police said. Shortly after, video captured Mr. Smith firing at Mr. Sheridan as he ran away, police said.

Mr. Jones said he plans to present a different perspective, in which Mr. Sheridan is the aggressor.

"As far as I know, Isiah was punched in the head by the young man that is no longer here," Mr. Jones said after Mr. Smith's surrender. "Isiah did not initiate any of the physical contact."

Mr. Smith went to the police bureau's Zone 5 station in Highland Park Saturday night after he saw pictures of himself on the 6 p.m. news.

The complaint quotes Mr. Smith, who turned over a loaded 9 mm Kel Tech P-11 handgun.

"Smith first stated that he fired at 'Zach' because he saw Sheridan bend over and reach towards his pocket. Smith later said that he pulled his gun and 'let one off' into the air trying to aim in a different direction than where Sheridan was," detectives wrote in the complaint.

Mr. Smith told police he got back into a car with his friends, drove them to the South Side to pick up their car, and then went to the Eat'n Park in Squirrel Hill.

Pittsburgh police sent out a news release Saturday night saying they intended to charge Mr. Smith but then said early Sunday morning that he was being released because the district attorney's office had decided not to approve the charges.

Mike Manko, spokesman for the district attorney's office, declined to elaborate on what changed between Saturday and Monday but said, "It's not unusual in felony sex assaults and homicides when we get presented with an affidavit that we ask for more information."

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Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.


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