McKees Rocks records 2 fatal shootings within same day

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Two men died in unrelated shootings in McKees Rocks on Monday, stressing residents and police in the small community that has seen a recent spike in violence.

The first occurred early in the morning on Vine Street; the second one happened in the afternoon inside a home on Alexander Street.

Monday's deaths were the fourth and fifth homicides in the borough of 6,000 this year, up from two in all of last year. The most recent victims were identified as 19-year-old Javon Riley of McKees Rocks and 21-year-old Kalief Gates of Pittsburgh.

"Are people becoming desensitized to the gunshots in their neighborhoods? I don't know," McKees Rocks police Chief Robert Cifrulak said Monday morning, hours after his officers were called to investigate their first report that day of a man shot to death.

About 6:20 a.m., as she was preparing to go to work, a woman living in the 1200 block of Vine Street reported that she found a man with a gunshot wound to the head lying in the street next to a black Dodge Intrepid.

Officers identified the victim, who was pronounced dead at the scene, as Mr. Riley, a man with whom some of them were familiar.

Chief Cifrulak said officers traced the car to Mr. Riley's girlfriend, who lives nearby. She later told police that Mr. Riley had been sleeping at her house when he received a phone call about 4 a.m. and left in her car for reasons that she did not know.

Several neighbors said they heard popping noises at about 4 a.m. but did not call police because they thought someone had been setting off fireworks, a daily occurrence since July 4.

Chief Cifrulak said officers believe that the shooting occurred around that time. They did not have any witnesses or suspects Monday evening but were investigating the possibility that someone might have called Mr. Riley to lure him to his death, the chief said.

Mr. Riley attended Sto-Rox High School in the 2008-09 school year, when he was a sophomore, and district officials said they had no record of him after that point.

Court records show that McKees Rocks police arrested him in December of 2010, two months before his 18th birthday, and charged him as an adult with robbery, assault and conspiracy. The outcome of that case was not clear because it later returned to the juvenile court system, where the verdicts typically remain under seal. Chief Cifrulak said officers are investigating Mr. Riley's past in the quest to find suspects.

More than a dozen family members gathered at the scene Monday morning, many running and a few crying that the killing "makes no sense." They could not be reached for comment later in the day.

About 10 hours after that shooting, McKees Rocks police and Allegheny County homicide detectives were called to the 400 block of Alexander Street after a man living on the first floor of an apartment building told neighbors to call 911 because he had just shot an intruder.

Police found Mr. Gates dead in a bedroom with at least three gunshot wounds -- one to the chest and two to the head.

Officers spent part of Monday night interviewing the resident, who told them that he used a 9 mm handgun to shoot Mr. Gates in self-defense while the Mr. Gates was trying to break into his home. It was too early to tell that evening whether there was truth behind that story, the chief said, adding that it was "not readily apparent" whether the intruder had a weapon.

Chief Cifrulak said officers are trying to find ways to curb the increase in gun violence.

A 19-year-old former high school football star, Marshawn Ptormey, died in late May after he was shot in the head in the 300 block of Russellwood Avenue, about a half-mile from where Mr. Riley was shot.

Another 19-year-old, Scott King of Verona, was found slumped over the wheel of a car parked in the 900 block of White alley. He was pronounced dead of a gunshot wound to the torso on June 15.

The first victim of a homicide in McKees Rocks this year was Quinn White, 24, of McKees Rocks, who was shot to death near a convenience store near the intersection of Churchill Street and Front Alley in January.

"There's no pattern or rhyme or reason," the chief said. "It seems to be spontaneous acts."

'There's no pattern or rhyme or reason. It seems to be spontaneous acts.'

neigh_west - crime

Liz Navratil: Taryn Luna: First Published July 17, 2012 4:00 AM


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