VOLUNTEERS—Tyra Townsend, Rev. Paul Abernathy, James-Brian Byers, and Dan Emerick. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Volunteers were on scene where 14-year-old was killed

For several months, Rev. Paul Abernathy, executive director of FOCUS Pittsburgh, has been working to put together a Trauma Response Team that would provide mental and behavioral health services in the wake of neighborhood homicides. Reverend Abernathy would team up with the Allegheny County Department of Health and several foundations to make it happen.

Last week, he told the New Pittsburgh Courier his first 14 volunteers had completed training and—if they had to— they would be ready to go out over the holiday weekend.

Sadly, they had to.

Even more sadly, they had to choose where they would go, because there were, unfortunately, many shootings that occurred.

“Friday night into, today really, we had five children shot,” Rev. Abernathy said, Nov. 28. “Two girls, 10 and 3, shot in the Hill, thankfully not killed; Saturday, a 14-year-old killed in Lincoln-Lemington, and then, a 16-year-old killed and a 13-year-old wounded in Turtle Creek (Nov. 27). We were only able to get to the Lincoln-Lemington scene. Our first weekend, and we were already maxed out.”

The 14-year-old killed on the morning of Nov. 25 was Augustus Gray, of Braddock, an eighth grader at Woodland Hills, found in the middle of Paulson Avenue with a gunshot to the head. Police have not yet identified a suspect.

Reverend Abernathy said seven of his 14 volunteers were able to respond to that shooting, and not only is he proud of what they did, he is also grateful to the community for its response to them.

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