Gunshot death of 16-year-old in Jeannette investigated as a homicide; classmates mourn
Tuesday was a typical day spent playing video games for Jimmy Malik and his best friend since kindergarten, 16-year-old Ryan Mangan.
Malik didn't know it would be the last time he'd see his friend.
“It's just unbelievable,” Malik said Thursday afternoon during a vigil for Mangan, who was found dead with a single gunshot wound Wednesday. “I honestly didn't believe until I went to his house last night.”
Mangan's body was discovered just before 6 p.m. Wednesday in his home on Rankin Avenue in Jeannette, said Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck.
Peck said his death is being investigated as a homicide. Authorities have no suspects.
City police and county detectives are looking into where the teenager was and with whom he was in contact the day of his death, Peck said.
The shooting “does not appear to be random,” Peck said.
An autopsy was conducted Thursday. The cause and manner of Mangan's death haven't been disclosed.
About 50 people attended a vigil Thursday afternoon, several wearing freshly printed black and red T-shirts imprinted with Mangan's photo, his birth and death dates, and the phrase, “Only the good die young.”
Mangan was a junior in the Jeannette City School District, officials said. He was a popular student and a “bright light,” said high school Principal Patricia Rozycki.
School officials were “inundated” with students who asked to speak to grief counselors, some of whom work for the district and others who were brought in to help, she said. Counselors will be available through Monday.
The small, close-knit district has about 250 high school-age students, Rozycki said.
“We're hurting like a family would be hurting,” she said.
Several members of Mangan's family and neighbors of the Rankin Avenue home declined to comment Thursday.
A few people shared stories about Mangan at the vigil as students and others hugged each other in silence.
Malik, also a junior, called his buddy a “smart kid.” They had been friends since they started school.
And their mothers have been friends even longer, said Laurie Malik, who started an online donation site for Mangan's family.
“He's just so funny,” Laurie Malik said. “He says the dumbest things. He was terrible at being bad because he got caught at everything he did.”
“As soon as he died, my children went over to his house,” Laurie Malik said. “I was like a mother figure to him.”
Jeannette graduate Taylor Wiltrout wiped away tears throughout the vigil for her friend.
“It's just a shame that this happened,” she said. “He would want all of us to continue on, go on like he's still here.”
In preparation for the 2012 presidential election, Mangan, then a freshman, researched various topics and formed opinions on the candidates in an American cultures class, according to a Trib Total Media report. Mangan told a reporter that his research as part of the project reinforced his support of President Obama.
“We need to help out small businesses to keep the economy going and to keep people in jobs,” Mangan said.
As the investigation into the year's first homicide in the county progresses, Mangan's classmates and friends hope police can nab a suspect.
“This is a murder,” Laurie Malik said. “This is a murder of a child.”
Jeannette Spirit staff writer Kristie Linden contributed. Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.