Knoxville area ­explodes with gun violence

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Beginning Aug. 14, a spike in what police are calling retaliatory gun violence left five dead and several others seriously injured across the city within a 24-hour period. The vast majority of the victims had criminal backgrounds, and though several were shot in front of multiple witnesses, Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper said his department is receiving little, if any, help from the community.

NateHarper
NATE HARPER

“If 30 people are standing around talking after an incident, even if its rumors—we need to be part of that discussion,” Harper said during an Aug. 19 press conference about the rash of shootings.

He said the recent shootings were actually triggered 10 days earlier when Chris Michaux, 19, was killed outside a friend’s house on the North Side, less than an hour after his mother had been shot on her porch in the same Perry South neighborhood.

Then on Aug. 14 and 16, two other North Side victims, Darius Grimsley, 29, and Dante Beasley, 22, were killed. Harper said Grimsely’s death was captured by a nearby surveillance camera that showed a fight among a group of people at the corner of Alpine and Garfield Streets. No one has come forward.

The youngest victim, 14-year-old Stephon Smith, who had a history of burglary arrests, was shot Aug. 17 during what police suspect was another burglary attempt on Meadows Street in Larimer. A 19-year-old friend was also wounded in the incident. Harper said police have a suspect in that case but are waiting for the district attorney’s office to recommend charges.

Harper said all these shootings occurring so close together is an anomaly, noting the city had 37 killings at this time last year and these pushed this year’s total to 30. But the real anomaly is the number of these shootings occurring in the Hilltop communities of Knoxville and Beltz­hoover.

On Aug. 14, 19-year-old Antoine Leake, handgun still in his belt, was fatally shot in a Knoxville drug house. Harper said as many as five people were inside when Leake was killed, but as with the Grimsley shooting, none have provided any assistance.

One day later, Jason Daniels, 18, was fatally shot as he and a friend, who was critically injured, drove a “rent a rock”—a car loaned in exchange for drugs—on Matthews Street. A 911 caller told police they saw a man in a baseball cap and shorts running from the scene.

Daniels’ shooting occurred just 20 minutes after three people were wounded in a shooting just blocks away on Warrington Street in Beltzhoover. One victim is in critical but stable condition after being short in the head and leg. Another victim was shot in the buttocks and the third grazed across the nose.

Then on Aug. 17, 27-year-old Maurice Sampson and his friend Dominique Jones, 26, were driving on Lillian Street in Beltzhoover just before noon when someone walked up to their car and fired nine shots. Amazingly, neither Sampson nor Jones was hit. But police noted that Sampson uses a wheelchair due to an earlier shooting injury, and was the probable target of a July drive-by shooting that wounded four others.

With the exception of the Leake shooting, Harper said the other Hilltop incidents are likely retaliatory. Leake, who was from Hazelwood, “brought that with him,” Harper said.

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