By Liz Navratil and Lexi Belculfine Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ericka Gallmore said she knocked on the door of a West Oakland apartment building across from her home Tuesday morning intending to confront the man she thought had assaulted her relative the day before.
Instead, she accidentally angered another man who she said threatened her with a gun -- beginning a chain of events that drew about 30 SWAT team members and numerous other officers to the tiny road off Wyandotte Street for nearly four hours.
The police response began about 8:30 Tuesday morning. Ms. Gallmore, 27, said she knocked on the door of the apartment building at 2018 De Ruad St. Shortly after, she said, she sat down on her stoop to drink some coffee when a man, identified in a police report as Neil Harris, 27, of the Hill District, came out and yelled at her for the noise she had created by knocking.
Pittsburgh police hunt for armed man
Pittsburgh police hunt for armed man from West Oakland 911 call. (Video by Nate Guidry; 8/12/2013)
Ms. Gallmore said Harris, who she grew up with and has known for more than 15 years, came out with what she described as "a small machine gun" and threatened to shoot her and anyone associated with her. The police report quotes him as saying "I have artillery and I will shoot you and anyone you call that comes down here."
Ms. Gallmore said she screamed in the street, "Just shoot me," although police described the confrontation as having taken place inside the apartment building where the suspect was staying. She said Harris went back into the apartment building while people came out of their homes to see the commotion and she spotted Harris heading toward the roof of the building. She called 911.
Pittsburgh Assistant Chief of Operations Maurita Bryant said at an afternoon news conference, "Officers never actually saw the suspect with the weapon. It was reported by the victim who initially called and there was another bystander witness who observed the actual weapon."
Officers from the city's Zone 2 station in the Hill District and Zone 4 station in Squirrel Hill, as well as members of the SWAT team, set up a perimeter around the building.
First, they used a robot to check the apartment where the suspect was staying. Police did not find him there but did find his driver's license, according to the report.
Then, they searched the roof and made their way down, searching one apartment at a time, without success.
During their search, police received a tip that Harris was spotted attempting to ditch a gun near the corner of Webster Avenue and Chauncey Street in the Hill District, but they did not find him or a weapon.
Ms. Gallmore said she and her friends have "no idea how he escaped. That part we're puzzled still. I'm a little, not so much shooken up, still angry, still mad."
Chief Bryant said police were attempting to determine whether an assault involving one of Ms. Gallmore's relatives -- police identified the person as her niece while Ms. Gallmore said it was her cousin -- had occurred.
Police obtained a warrant Tuesday charging Harris with terroristic threats, disorderly conduct, simple assault by physical menace and possessing an instrument of crime.