Update (10/31/22): On Oct. 29, Pittsburgh police arrested a 19-year-old McKees Rocks man and a 16-year-old North Side resident, in relation to the shootings. Both were charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault and firearms crimes. The McKees Rocks man also faces conspiracy, drug and firearm charges, and the North Side resident also faces cruelty to animal and tampering with evidence charges. Both are scheduled for preliminary hearings on Nov. 18.
A funeral for a recent gunshot victim was interrupted by an unknown shooter or shooters in Brighton Heights, in an incident that some longtime observers of violence interpreted as retaliation, but also as a reflection of deep and spiraling trauma in some city neighborhoods.
Six people were injured in the Friday shooting outside the Destiny of Faith Church on Brighton Street. Around noon, ShotSpotter alerted police that five gunshots were heard in the Brighton Heights area. Another 15 gun rounds were heard immediately after, said Pittsburgh Police Major Crimes Commander Richard Ford.
The funeral ceremony was being held for John James Hornezes, Jr., who was one of three killed in a shooting on Pittsburgh’s North Side on Oct. 15.
All six victims were reported in stable condition on Friday afternoon, Ford said. Police said they don’t have suspects and that they are investigating if Friday’s shooting is connected to the Oct.15 shooting. They believe multiple shooters were involved in today’s violence and that it was a targeted shooting.
“I never could have imagined it, that we would shoot up holy ground,” Mayor Ed Gainey said at a 3:30 p.m. press conference.
Acting Police Chief Tom Stangrecki said at the briefing that the police were “finishing up” processing the scene at that time.
“This has been one of the most devastating days of my life, I would say,” said Brenda Gregg, the pastor at Destiny of Faith Church, where the shooting took place. She said the church would not close its doors this weekend because “we are here to stand with each other.”
City Councilman Bobby Wilson called the shooting “unacceptable on so many levels” and said the city needs to get out of this “violent phase.”
A 13-year-old named Julia said she was getting off the bus on Brighton Road when she heard gunfire and ran into a nearby Rite Aid, where she said employees locked the doors.
She had no doubt she heard gunshots though she had never heard gunshots in real life before.
In the store, she watched as police surrounded the area.
“After about 10 minutes, they let us out. And when I walked out, I saw a lot of people yelling, a lot of people crying,” Julia said.
Rob Dennis stood near the Destiny of Faith Church, watching as a coffin carried by police was loaded into a hearse. Two police on motorcycles waited in front and then rumbled away with the hearse.
“You see how quiet it is now? It’s always quiet like this. This doesn’t happen here,” he said. “The police had to carry his casket instead of his friends. That’s sad. This is not right.”
Across the street a woman asked police to cross the police line to get some chicken from a store facing the church. Behind Dennis was a playground and further back residential homes covered the rest of the intersection.
Dennis said he was in the area visiting family when he saw posts on his social media about the shooting.
“They had to stop the funeral,” he said. “Some of the loved ones who were here for the funeral service are now at the hospital.”
He continued, “Why? That’s what I want to know. Something like this at a funeral. It’s just sad.”
Davonte Johnson, co-founder of the Young Voices Action Collective, told PublicSource that the shooting demonstrates “hurt, pain and distress” within Pittsburgh communities.
“That a person would feel so internally conflicted and lash out at those things at a church — a place of grief and sacredness. It’s more reflective of the ongoing grief our hoods endure that goes untold,” he added.
Richard Garland, director of the Violence Prevention Initiative at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Health Equity, said the shooting “shows the person or persons have no respect for human life, and it being done at a funeral shows it was done to set an example.”
He noted the persistent and insidious effects of guns, drugs and alcohol on Pittsburgh-area neighborhoods.
He continued: “I fear this will have other shootings in retaliation to follow. … This will cut deep into the souls of families and communities for some time.”
Garland has been involved in anti-violence efforts locally for decades, recently launching a crew of violence interrupters in McKeesport.
“I will use my resources to see if we can get to the bottom of this issue and hope this doesn’t continue,” he wrote in response to questions from PublicSource, adding that he intends to visit the wounded when possible.
Gainey pleaded with people who may be driven to retaliate to instead cooperate with police.
“To go out there and retaliate does not make anything better,” Gainey said. “We don’t want that. We want you alive. If you know something, anything, come forward and say something.”
Dennis Jones, executive director of Youth Enrichment Services, noted that the rationale driving retaliatory acts of gunfire isn’t new, but serves as a sign that Pittsburgh still has work left to do to end the cycle of violence.
“These individuals respond to a slight, or violent act against them or their family with unmeasured force. Which is why it is so hard to stop,” he wrote in a statement to PublicSource.
He added that these acts of retaliation are why some funeral homes have stopped officiating over services for gun violence victims unless the families provide security measures.
Homicide rates in Pittsburgh have reached a seven-year high, the Tribune-Review reported Thursday. With youth so often in the cross hairs and affected in other direct and indirect ways, neighborhood organizations are trying to break the cycle with healing and preventative practices.
Also slain in the Oct. 15 incident were Betty Averytt, 59, and Jacquelyn Mehalic, 33.
Eric Jankiewicz is PublicSource’s economic development reporter, and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ericjankiewicz.
Amelia Winger is PublicSource’s health reporter with a focus on mental health. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Readers tell us they can't find the information they get from our reporting anywhere else, and we're proud to provide this important service for our community. We work hard to produce accurate, timely, impactful journalism without paywalls that keeps our region informed and moving forward.
However, only about .1% of the people who read our stories contribute to our work financially. Our newsroom depends on the generosity of readers like yourself to make our high-quality local journalism possible, and the costs of the resources it takes to produce it have been rising, so each member means a lot to us.
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