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McKeesport Area mourns murder victim

| Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 4:41 a.m.

McKeesport Area School District is mourning the loss of junior DeJour Gadsden, who was killed in Pittsburgh's Hill District neighborhood on Saturday night.

Pittsburgh police responded to a shooting on Saturday at 11:55 p.m. in the 2100 block of White Hill Drive. Gadsden, 17, was found unresponsive in the courtyard with a bullet wound in his upper body, and a female victim was inside her residence with a wound in the buttocks, Pittsburgh police public information officer Diane Richard said.

Gadsden was pronounced dead at the scene, and the female victim was transported to UPMC Mercy.

Gadsden was enrolled in McKeesport Area's cyber program and took online classes from home. He had been a traditional high school student prior to his junior year.

“He's a kid that had a relationship with everybody here,” high school principal Mark Holtzman said on Monday. “We had a relationship with his family. We knew his mom very well, and his dad lived nearby. They were very supportive of us, and we had a lot of interaction.”

Guidance counselors from the school district and specialists from Mon Yough Community Services were at the high school on Monday, and teachers were advised to be aware of students who may need counseling.

“He was very popular,” Holtzman said. “All the kids knew him, so we set up this morning to have people available to talk to kids who might be upset.”

Holtzman informed students of the tragedy at the start of Monday's school day, and requested a moment of silence for the victim and his family.

“That gets the emotions out initially and allows the kids to talk about it,” he said. “I've told the staff that it doesn't become a forum for kids to discuss, unless the teachers feel comfortable guiding that discussion. We've been through this before, which is sad, but I think we have a pretty good process in place to support the kids and even some of our staff members.”

Holtzman said he believes students are worried by violence among their peers.

worries high schoolers.

“I think they're somewhat fearful of these types of events,” he said. “It's hitting close to home for many of them, and it's frustrating.

“Generally speaking, our kids move through these things relatively well because it's part of their culture and things they've experienced in the past. You don't give a teenager enough credit until you see how they manage problem solving and challenges like this.”

Community leaders have been working to eliminate the culture of violence among city youth. The Select Committee on Crime and Violence and a McKeesport Message subcommittee are dedicated to promoting positive lifestyles among the city's youth and in other facets of the community.

Because some city youth are engaged in violent activity or become the victims of violent crime, Holtzman assured that students are safe within McKeesport Area schools.

“We emphasize the safety and security of our school every day,” he said. “This is the safest place, and we are proud of that. We continue to emphasize it every day regardless of these types of situations. It helps reinforce that the effort needs to continue and to be invested into financially, physically and emotionally.”

Pittsburgh homicide detectives are investigating Gadsden's death. Reports indicate three males with black masks entered the female victim's residence and began shooting at her and Gadsden. The suspects fled the scene in a silver Nissan Maxima.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Pittsburgh's homicide squad at 412-323-7161. Callers may remain anonymous.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or