by Christian Morrow, Courier Staff Writer
Summer is less than a month old and it’s shaping up to be a long, hot one if things continue as they have with Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities.
Since July 4, the Greater Pittsburgh region saw nearly a dozen shootings, resulting in 13 victims—one a Black Pittsburgh Police officer. As of Tuesday afternoon, July 16, five of the victims have died.
On July 4, amid the crowd of families streaming away from the fireworks show, Downtown, an argument escalated to gunfire that left two victims, a 16-year-old and 18-year-old, critically wounded. The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police arrested 18-year-old Camerin Caldwell of the North Side in connection with those shootings.
Last weekend, 20-year-old Onaje Dickinson was killed by a Penn Hills Police officer investigating the nearby fatal shooting of Joshua A. Makhanda-Lopez, 30, found in his car a few hours earlier.
21-year-old Delquay James was killed in a shooting in McKeesport over this past weekend as well.
A person was shot after a fight broke out during a concert inside Nova Place on the North Side, Saturday, July 13; later, a double shooting in Northview Heights left one of the victims in critical condition; and in the overnight hours, the shooting of off-duty Pittsburgh Police Officer Calvin Hall during a party in Homewood.
He, too, remains in critical condition.
Coincidentally, Hall, a 36-year-old African American who came to the department from the Braddock police force two years ago, was stationed at the Northview Heights Public Safety Center. In a July 14 press release, the bureau said Officer Hall was hand-picked for the assignment by the center’s Sgt. Joseph Lewis, who said he recruited Officer Hall because of his positive attitude and ability to relate to all people from all walks of life.
“He was born and raised in the City of Pittsburgh and his ways of connecting to the community and to other officers was extremely beneficial for what we’re trying to do in Northview Heights,” said Lewis. “He is always positive, always upbeat. I approached him and said, ‘I want you up here because of your personality and the way you interact with the community.’ He’s always smiling, always positive.”
There were also two other non-fatal shootings—one at Walmart in North Versailles on July 5 and at the Mon View Heights public housing plan in West Mifflin on July 10. The fatal shooting of 18-year-old Christopher Lamont Lowman Jr., who was found lying in the street in the city’s Allentown neighborhood, occurred July 11, and a 20-year-old man was killed when he answered a knock at the door of his parents’ home on 16th Avenue in Homestead, also on July 11. Rahim Thomas, 24, also of Homestead, was arrested the following day but has yet to be charged with homicide.
Members of the Coalition Against Violence, including co-chair Tim Stevens, Rich Carrington of Beltzhoover’s Voices Against Violence and Sharon McIntosh, the coalition’s Youth Summit Coordinator, spoke to the New Pittsburgh Courier during a break at a July 16 meeting called to see about getting other groups to apply some of the strategies in their book, “From Complaint to Possibility…From Planning to Implementation and Mobilization.”
Carrington said the people who are trying to reach the youth in the schools and on the street are doing it with next-to-no resources—and other organizations that have resources are not doing the job. And the kids on the street have no tools with which to help themselves.
“It’s madness—and Tim, who used to work in mental health, can tell you, madness that goes untreated becomes even greater madness,” he said. “It’s violence for nothing, and no one is offering any help. If I have no hope and think I’m going to die by 18, what difference does it make? You have to put something on the table. And the so-called violence prevention programs don’t have to have shooters in the room. You have to get the people with the guns in the room, but everyone is scared of the shooters.”
Stevens said the coalition, McIntosh in particular, is working on a youth violence summer 2020 program that would allow kids to formulate initiatives that promote nonviolence in their communities, schools and homes.
“We can’t implement 833 strategies, but we can promote the implementation of some of them by community groups, churches and individuals,” said Stevens.
McIntosh said it is about more than street violence.
“Violence overall increases when the school year ends—trafficking, domestic violence, even suicides,” she said. “These kids feel disenfranchised, not valued, with no hope to achieve anything—this is about making sure they don’t get to that level of hopelessness.”
The coalition is willing to work with any organization that is serious about reducing violence.
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