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Trial ordered in Donora bar shooting

Frank 'Kemo' Tartt Jr.

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Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 12:11 a.m.
 

A Monessen man was ordered to stand trial for attempted murder stemming from a Donora bar shooting that left two men wounded.

Frank “Kimo” Ellis Tartt Jr., 32, faced his alleged victims during his preliminary hearing Thursday before Magisterial District Judge Mark Wilson in Monongahela.

Tartt is accused of firing several shots through the door at Ray's Place on 864 Meldon Ave. shortly before 2 a.m. July 5. Christopher Tartt and Jerome Pryor Sr. were wounded by gunfire.

Donora police obtained an arrest warrant for Tartt after several witnesses identified him as the shooter.

Tartt was apprehended Sept. 13 in Monessen after police received a tip he was staying with a relative. Donora police Superintendent James Brice said U.S. Marshals assisted in the arrest because Tartt was considered a high-risk suspect.

During the hearing, Christopher Tartt – Frank Tartt's cousin – and Pryor testified the bar was “overcrowded” the night of the shooting.

Pryor, of Monessen, testified he stopped at Ray's Place for a six-pack of beer.

“I wasn't even in there five minutes when all this commotion started and people started pushing and shoving,” Pryor said under questioning by Washington County Assistant District Attorney John Friedmann. “Everything just went wild.”

Pryor said he was pinned against the bar but managed to pull two women onto the floor to shield them from the gunfire.

Pryor said he didn't realize he'd been hit until he went outside and saw blood on his shirt. He said a bullet fragment struck his left arm.

Pryor said a friend drove him to Monongahela Valley Hospital in Carroll Township. He was then taken by ambulance to UPMC Mercy in Pittsburgh for treatment. He said the injury required no surgery and he was discharged several hours later.

While at Monongahela Valley Hospital, Pryor allegedly told Donora police Officer Michael Parry he saw Frank Tartt and Christopher Tartt fighting inside the bar, according to an affidavit of probable cause. Pryor reportedly told police he saw Frank Tartt leave the bar, and then he heard gunshots.

Pryor's testimony Thursday differed from his police statement. He told both Friedmann and defense attorney Kristin Fiori he “wasn't sure” when he saw the suspect that night.

Christopher Tartt of Donora testified he saw Frank Tartt in the bar, but didn't talk to him. He said he learned in June that Frank Tartt was dating Christopher Tartt's girlfriend.

Christopher Tartt testified that as the night went on, his cousin threatened him and challenged him to a fight outside.

“I told him I wasn't going outside with him because I know he carries a gun; that's the kind of person he is,” Christopher Tartt testified.

Frank Tartt began laughing during his cousin's testimony, prompting Wilson to tell him to stay quiet.

Christopher Tartt said the verbal sparring quickly turned into a physical altercation.

“He kept telling me to come outside with him and just kept antagonizing me, so I just reacted to that and punched him in the face,” Christopher Tartt testified.

“I felt his gun and tried to keep him away from it. I just kept punching him.”

He said bar patrons intervened, and a group of people “dragged” Frank Tartt outside.

“I was watching him the whole time. I saw him raise his gun and fire into the glass door,” Christopher Tartt testified. “That's when I was shot in the leg. I mean, this man's crazy. He shot into an open bar.”

He testified that a bullet struck his left thigh. A friend drove him to Monongahela Valley Hospital. After being interviewed by police, he was taken by ambulance to an unknown Pittsburgh hospital and released several hours later. He said the bullet is still lodged in his leg.

Parry testified that he was standing outside the police station with his partner when he heard shots fired from the direction of the bar. The bar is located about two blocks from the police station.

“We were there within 20 seconds and people were just flooding out (of the bar),” Parry said.

He said six shell casings from a 9 mm handgun were found on the sidewalk, and a bullet was located in the doorjamb.

Parry said officers searched customers for weapons.

Parry testified that he was approached by customer Karl Jackson, who identified Frank Tartt as the shooter.

“Karl Jackson gave me a fully-detailed description of what happened, but once it (the shooting) hit the (newspaper), he knew nothing,” Parry said.

Wilson ordered Tartt to stand trial on two counts each attempted homicide, aggravated assault, and recklessly endangering another person, and single counts of firearms not to be carried without a license, and discharging a firearm into an occupied structure.

He was sent back to the Washington County Correctional Facility in lieu of $100,000 bond.

In the wake of the shooting, borough officials have been working to keep Ray's Place closed. Donora Mayor John Lignelli said bar owner Charles Shetterley has been ordered to keep the business closed until he brings it into compliance with code regulations. Lignelli said the bar needs extensive work.

Officials had been trying to have the bar declared a nuisance by the Washington County District Attorney's Office and the state Liquor Control Enforcement board. The LCE had just reinstated the bar's license two weeks before the shooting.

Stacy Wolford is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-684-2640 or at swolford@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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