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Street minister plans outreach in response to death of Duquesne witness

| Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, 1:21 a.m.
Andrew Russell | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Vickie Powell of Duquesne hugs Clifton Pitts, the chairman of the Mon Valley Peoples Action Committee at Powell's home in Duquesne, Friday Aug. 8, 2014, after she spent time talking about the loss of her son, 15 year-old Leroy Powell, who was shot after testifying in a murder trial.

Founder of a local street ministry committed to ending violence said he plans to bring an outreach event to Duquesne in the next two or three days to address the killing of a teen there this week.

Sheldon Stoudemire, who is active with the Greater Pittsburgh chapter of MAD DADS — Men Against Destruction, Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder — said the event is in response to the death of LeRoy Powell, 15, who was shot in the 1000 block of Crawford Avenue about 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

“It's been the conversation all week,” said Stoudemire, who did not know the victim. “What I'm hearing is that he was set up.”

Many residents are reluctant to talk about the incident on the record, which is widely believed to have been in retaliation for testimony Powell gave at a July 30 hearing for homicide suspect Eric Taylor, 15, who is accused in the May 26 shooting of DaRae Delgado in Duquesne.

Delgado, 15, was pregnant at the time. She survived but her unborn child did not. Taylor remains in Allegheny County Jail.

After Delgado's shooting, Powell told investigators he saw Taylor with a gun. He reportedly changed his story at the hearing and said he didn't actually see Taylor's gun.

On Friday, Duquesne police Assistant Chief Scott Adams said local and Allegheny County police were “pretty much at where we were on the first day.”

“We have descriptions of people fleeing the area,” said Adams, who added that investigators are continuing to look at ballistic evidence collected at the scene.

Adams said the police presence has been stepped up in certain sections of the city in response to the shooting.

Taylor's attorney, Blaine Jones, said of the shooting death of Powell, “Quite frankly, I think it hurt our case.”

“I thought (Powell) was a favorable witness to the point I would have subpoenaed him if the commonwealth had not,” he said.

Jones said he has not yet spoken with Taylor since the shooting occurred but plans to do so early next week. The attorney said he was deeply saddened to hear of the shooting and offered his condolences to the Powell family.

Jones said he has much still to do in terms of defending Taylor, noting that prosecutors have a second undisclosed witness they plan to have testify against his client.

Stoudemire said the shooting further erodes trust of the judicial system in economically depressed communities.

Regarding the message the shooting may have sent to other potential witnesses in criminal cases, Allegheny County District Attorney's office spokesman Mike Manko said in a written statement, “When dealing with defendants who have known criminal associates, the safety of witnesses is a top priority, so it is a concern for all of law enforcement.”

Stoudemire said he knows people with close ties to the victim, and, “from what I heard, he was a well-liked kid.”

Powell was a student in the West Mifflin Area School District in the 2013-14 academic year. It's unclear where he was going to attend school in the coming year.

West Mifflin Area Superintendent Daniel Castagna issued a statement on Friday that said, “The entire West Mifflin school-community sends our deepest sympathy and regards to the family of LeRoy Powell. It is impossible for me or any parent to imagine the magnitude of the loss of a loved one at only 15 years old.”

Staff writer Patrick Cloonan contributed to this story. Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or