Though on crutches while recovering from surgery to remove a tumor from his leg, and unable to walk the course, House of Manna Pastor Eugene Blackwell waited on Frankstown Avenue as his wife, Dina, led about 100 others in the 5th Annual March For Peace.
Again there was the singing and the waving of banners, and the tears of those who’ve lost loved, ones calling for an end to the violence. But even as the April 18 march began, word came that a 33-year-old man had been shot that morning in the parking lot of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, just a mile away in Larimer.
Valerie Dixon, of the Coalition Against Violence, said the shooting is like the hundreds of others that brought these marchers together.
“As soon as I got here I learned an individual had lost his life this morning,” she said. “But we have to look forward to what we can offer the community to try to reduce these (homicide) numbers. It’s not just a Homewood problem, or a Wilkinsburg problem; it’s a community problem. And we need a much larger plan.”
Before the march began, participants held a moment of silence for the victim, Leonard Young, who lived just down the street from where he was shot, and may have been killed for nothing more than his shoes. Young’s sister told police his new tennis shoes were missing from the scene.
Pittsburgh Public Safety Spokesperson Sonya Toler, who was also at the march, confirmed the victim was robbed.
“This case is particularly troubling to me because when we arrived at the scene, people say they heard shots around 3 a.m., but the first call to 911 didn’t come in until around 8 a.m.,” she said. “It’s a terrible testimony that people have become so used to gunfire that it’s like, ‘oh well, they’re shooting again.’”
Police pronounced Young dead at the scene from multiple gunshots to the upper torso. He was shot while in his car, which then drifted forward over the edge of the parking lot before coming to rest. Toler said no witnesses had yet come forward but declined comment on the availability of any video evidence.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” she said. “Our detectives are pursuing several leads, but we need the community to continue to feed us leads and information,” she said.
Toler’s words were echoed later that day in another part of Homewood as Dixon, officers from Pittsburgh’s Zone 5 station, homicide detectives and supporters joined family members at a vigil across the street from the for Jasmine Morris and Demetrius Broadnax, both fatally shot at a Homewood bar where five others were wounded Oct. 20 when a gunman opened fire.
The killer is still at large, as is the killer of Hosea Davis who was shot 16 times January 20. His mother Connie Moore was there. So was Wynona Harper whose son Jamar Hawkins was shot in Penn Hills in November. Autumn Perkins, who created the We Need Justice Too! Facebook page in response to the lack of media attention to hundreds of unsolved Black homicides including that of her fiancé Laron Howard in July, also joined the vigil.
All including state Rep. Ed Gainey called for those with knowledge to contact the authorities and get these killers off the street.
“It’s not going to be because of a cavalry from outside, it’s going to happen because we from inside begin to speak up,” he said. “Come forward.”
Broadnax said she will not rest—and her son’s killer won’t be able to rest—until justice is done.
“This animal, this trash that killed my child and this young girl, tell him he will not rest until he is picked up and taken to jail,” she said. “We are not afraid of him. He is a piece of trash. He is nothing. We’re not going away.”
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