Sometime after 3 a.m. Saturday outside the Original Hot Dog Shop in Oakland, Zachary Sheridan, 24, of Brookline was shot to death.
Police have arrested Isiah Joshua Smith, 22, of Lincoln-Lemington, identifying him as the killer.
According to the police report, their dispute started when someone in Mr. Sheridan's group jokingly asked a woman who was parking her car outside the "O" if they could get a ride home since no cabs were available. The woman, identified as Rhonda Hall, took offense and accused the three men of "disrespecting" her.
Mr. Sheridan apologized, according to the report, but it didn't mollify the woman who recounted the slight to Mr. Smith and two friends of his inside the restaurant. Mr. Smith, who is the nephew of Ms. Hall's boyfriend, is said to have approached Mr. Sheridan's group with two other men. One of them shouted, "I'm hood; I'm from the hood" and "There's three of you and three of us. What's up?"
Police stated that Mr. Smith raised a loaded 9mm Kel Tech P-11 handgun and pointed it at the head of one of Mr. Sheridan's friends. Mr. Sheridan, a former linebacker for Slippery Rock University's football team, intervened and struck Mr. Smith, knocking him to the ground at least twice and bloodying his mouth, the report said.
Police say that video surveillance footage shows Zachary Sheridan's attempt to escape the altercation by fleeing across Forbes Avenue once it became clear he was about to get shot. Mr. Smith is reportedly seen on the video firing at Mr. Sheridan's retreating figure.
The bullet entered the victim's upper back and exited his upper chest, the medical examiner found. The former football player was dead within minutes after stumbling out of range of the surveillance cameras. Mr. Smith is seen on video, according to police, concealing the unlicensed gun and walking away.
Mr. Smith went to work as usual later on Saturday, but he thought better of it when he saw his face on the evening news. He left his job early, complaining of dizziness, and returned home where his mother and brother urged him to turn himself in. He made a statement to police, recounting the shooting as one motivated by self-defense.
Inexplicably, homicide charges weren't immediately filed against Mr. Smith, and he was allowed to leave the police station after giving his statement. The district attorney's office wouldn't approve criminal charges until it examined the medical examiner's autopsy report on Monday. It did so after reviewing the findings.
Although tragic, this appears to be a fairly straightforward case of a man with a gun shooting and killing an unarmed man over nothing. The racial backgrounds of the victim (white) and shooter (black) aren't germane. Still, their colors have already provided an excuse for some folks whose sense of racial grievance is beyond the pale.
Here's how one reader, whose grasp of the facts is dubious to begin with, interpreted the events in a note to me:
"Mr. Norman, if the races of these 2 groups were reversed and a white kid/guy had shot at a group of fleeing blacks, killing one, I would imagine that the blood on the sidewalk would barely be dried and washed away before folks like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton (both Reverends, you know) and others would be on planes here to make folks aware of the injustice that had just occurred. Hell, maybe Eric Holder would show up to assure the police were handling this crime correctly and with the proper sense of urgency.
"But, alas, that will not happen because this story, unlike that of George (white Hispanic) Zimmerman, is a dog bites man story. One that unfortunately happens all the time. You see, Mr. Norman, if I had a son, he would look like Zach. I can only imagine that white communities throughout the South Hills and the entire city are ready to erupt in violence if justice is not done. No Justice -- No Peace! You see, Tony: I Am Zach.
"Respectfully submitted, (name withheld to protect the moronic)."
It is disgusting that Zach Sheridan's murder is already being exploited by those who assume black folks will support Mr. Smith's bogus self-defense claim en masse, even though his own family made him turn himself in. Like George Zimmerman, Isiah Smith appears to be a murderer. Unlike Zimmerman, he won't have people like the letter-writer in his corner rationalizing his crime as self-defense.
Zach Sheridan's murder is a tragedy that doesn't require another layer of manufactured outrage. Pittsburghers of all races mourn his senseless loss.
Tony Norman: email@example.com, 412-263-1631; Twitter @TonyNormanPG.