Two people shot Downtown; suspects in custody

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 4:18 p.m.

A squabble over money involving a half-dozen people escalated into a fistfight and then gunfire that wounded two men on a busy Downtown street during Friday afternoon's rush hour.

As many as five men and two women may have been involved in the initial dispute that began shortly before 4 p.m. near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street and ended a block away a few minutes later with shots fired at the intersection of Fifth and Wood Street, said Pittsburgh police Lt. Kevin Kraus, acting supervisor of the major crimes unit.

The wounded men and a third person who was injured during the fistfight were detained by Sgt. Kevin Faulds, an Allegheny County sheriff's deputy who heard the gunshots and rushed to prevent more violence, Kraus said. None of the injuries was life-threatening, he said.

“Clearly, the sheriff's deputy did a tremendous job right in the middle of an active shooting situation,” Kraus said.

The chaos scared pedestrians and motorists.

“There was a lot of hollering; a couple girls screaming, ‘Break it up! Break it up!'” said Jim Zimbicki, 57, of McKees Rocks. ”Then ‘bam, bam, bam!' like firecrackers, and people scattered, running everywhere.”

“Everybody went crazy, running in the stores,” agreed Regina White, 83, of Edgewood, who was waiting for a bus when she saw at least two men fighting on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant at Fifth and Wood.

“They just kept fighting and fighting and fighting” until an officer — apparently Faulds — drove up and pulled one of the men out of the brawl, White said.

An off-duty city detective, Joseph Ryczaj, who was eating in a nearby restaurant, came out and helped Faulds, Kraus said.

Hassan Howze, 22, and Antonio Peterson, 24, both of Overbrook, were arrested on charges of aggravated assault and conspiracy, Kraus said. Peterson also was charged with carrying a concealed weapon without a license.

No charges were immediately filed against the third person, identified only as a 22-year-old man from Bellevue.

Witnesses told city homicide detectives that the initial dispute began with an argument over a debt in front of a restaurant on Smithfield Street, where one man was heard saying, “You owe me two stacks.” A stack is $1,000.

Howze and Peterson followed the Bellevue man and accosted him in front of another restaurant at Fifth and Wood, Kraus said.

“A guy with a gray hoodie got knocked down, and another guy was standing over him, punching him in the head,” Zimbicki said. “The third guy came out of the crowd. He must have been a friend of one of them, and I saw he had a gun.”

Paul Rodriguez Sirmons, 42, of Bellevue said he saw one man pinned against a wall by others who were hitting him. “They had him down on the ground, and he just pulled out his gun and (cursed him),” he said. “They started cussing at each other (and then) ‘pow, pow pow!' ”

Kraus said that during the fistfight Howze pulled out a .40-caliber handgun and shot the Bellevue man in the shoulder. The wounded man then wrestled the gun away from Howze and shot him in the buttocks.

The Bellevue man was treated in UPMC Mercy. Howze was admitted to Allegheny General Hospital in serious condition. Peterson was treated in Allegheny General, then taken to Night Court for arraignment.

“I didn't hear anything. All I saw was an army of cops coming down this way. It's just senseless. It's absolutely senseless,” said David Frankel, 34, of Dormont, who works at McCormick & Schmick's Seafood & Steaks at Fifth and Oliver Avenue. “It's enough to make me want to get a concealed-carry permit, I'll tell you that.”

Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or Staff writers Adam Smeltz and Doug Gulasy contributed to this report.

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