The Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP is calling for the Allegheny County executive and City of Pittsburgh mayor to conduct an independent investigation into the shooting death of an East Liberty teen by an Allegheny County Sheriff’s Deputy June 13.
“We would have liked to see a different outcome, that this young fellow would still be alive and that he could have gotten some help,” said Constance Parker, 1st vice president of the NAACP.
“We respect the job of the police officers, but we’d like to see the outcome better. There are a lot of questions from the community. We want justice for all colors, fair treatment across the board.”
Odell Brown, 19, had been distraught over the recent breakup with his girlfriend, when he decided to walk down the streets of his North Euclid Street neighborhood, in East Liberty, waving around what looked like a gun on June 13.
Pittsburgh Police, SWAT and a Negotiator responded to the call. For more than 90 minutes authorities, along with assistance from the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Deputies, commanded Brown to put down the gun. After some time, Brown reportedly walked to the side yard of the residence in the 500 block of North Euclid, where he met a Sheriff’s Deputy. After several reported commands to put the gun down, Brown refused, pointed it at the deputy and was shot in the chest by the Deputy’s patrol rifle. Brown was taken to UPMC Presbyterian hospital, where he died of his wound. It was later discovered that the gun Brown had in his possession was actually a pellet gun.
The Deputy, a 14-year veteran, who was serving a writ to a resident in the area when he received the call for assistance, has been put on leave, which is protocol, and according to Diane Richard, public information officer for the Pittsburgh Police, the District Attorney’s Office and the FBI have been notified of the incident and an investigation is expected to be held.
But that is not enough for the NAACP. Parker said the NAACP is asking for an independent investigation into the police shooting from county Executive Rich Fitzgerald and mayor Luke Ravenstahl because the community has a lot of questions, there is a lot of confusion and it seems the police have already made their decision before the investigation has begun, especially after a recent comment made by the Pittsburgh Chief of Police Nate Harper that this incident was a “suicide by police.”
Questions of the NAACP include, “why wasn’t the information relayed to officers if the mother knew it was a pellet gun?” “Are we (African-Americans) treated differently than others?” and “was every measure taken to spare the life of Odell Brown?”
Parker said the letters have been drafted and are expected to be sent out soon, but she does not foresee a problem because she knows how invested both Fitzgerald and Ravenstahl are in changing the violent environment within the neighborhoods.
As of last month, Allegheny County has seen 37 homicides, 29 of them Black men and women.