2 more dead in wave of North Side violence
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Pittsburgh police officials said they will ramp up patrols on the city's North Side in response to what they described as a troubling spate of gang-related violence that left a teenager and a young man dead early Thursday.
The killings of Deondre Kenney, 15, and Matthew Burton, 21, whose bullet-riddled bodies were discovered in a vehicle in a secluded stretch of Perry South, were the latest in a string of 22 incidents of gunfire on the North Side in less than a week, police Chief Nate Harper said.
"We don't know how they are connected, but we feel there is a connection," the chief said at a news conference where he detailed the crimes. "This type of violence has to stop."
Homicide detectives continue to probe the deadly shooting, which likely happened about 3 a.m. while the two were traveling in a rented Chevrolet HHR in the 1800 block of Buena Vista Street. Police said at least one gunman shot from outside the vehicle, and it is likely another opened fire inside the vehicle, as the dead pair suffered gunshot wounds to the backs of their heads. A man living nearby said he heard gunfire and saw the vehicle travel up the hill, but he wasn't disturbed enough to call 911 because, he said, the sound is common on his block. A pedestrian spotted the car with shot-out windows just after 6 a.m. and notified police.
Mr. Burton was a known member of the Brighton Place Crips with a lengthy rap sheet, Chief Harper said. Court records show he was on probation after pleading guilty to a string of misdemeanors levied against him in 2009. His gang involvement and that of either the victims or perpetrators in each of the recent shootings signifies the need for "saturation patrols," deputy police Chief Paul Donaldson said. The presence of both plainclothesmen and uniformed officers is part of a far-reaching effort to eliminate gang- and group-related homicides, in part through coordinated "responses" to such incidents.
"We will have zero tolerance," deputy Chief Donaldson said. "The officers will be on the lookout for any suspicious activity and, in particular, we are trying to get guns off the street. We want to get the guns out of the hands of these irresponsible individuals who are indiscriminately taking the lives of others and shooting into houses."
The North Side is home to at least 13 street gangs, by police estimates. Among other recent incidents tied to gangs was the Tuesday shooting of Richard Robinson in the 800 block of Mt. Pleasant Road; the Wednesday shooting of Deion Holloway at Shadeland Avenue and Casement Street; the Tuesday shooting of a dog on Divinity Street; and the Wednesday firing of shots into a car in the 600 block of Chautauqua Street. On Monday night, Chief Harper said, shots were fired at the Odell Robinson Funeral Home on Perrysville Avenue, where a viewing was being held for Tyheem Bey, a known gang member who shot himself. Several of his associates were among the mourners. The violence, which police said could be retaliatory, usually happens between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
"We don't know what the motive is for all these shootings, but it appears there is some type of feud going on, possibly, among these gangs on the North Side," Chief Harper said.
Thursday's homicide victims were not related, and deputy Chief Donaldson would not say whether Mr. Kenney was also part of a gang. His relatives declined to comment.
"What we can say is, it's unfortunate his life was ended at such an early age," deputy Chief Donaldson said. "And we have to question why was he out there ... at three in the morning."
Police calls to stop the violence were echoed by about 40 community members who gathered Thursday night at the NorthShore Community Alliance for a previously planned meeting to discuss ways to curb gun violence.
"It's heart-wrenching," alliance executive director Carol Washington said of the deaths. "I won't say that we're used to it, but the North Side is probably one of the highest in terms of violence and [has] one of the highest homicide rates in the city."
First Published June 29, 2012 12:00 am