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Pittsburgh police searching for man who triggered SWAT situation in West Oakland

| Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, 9:57 a.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Along Fifth Avenue, Uptown, Pittsburgh Police Officers train their weapons on a building where it was believed a man with a gun was hiding, Tuesday, August 13, 2013. No one was apprehended, after a two to three hour search of the building and nearby locations by SWAT and other police turned up empty.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Members of SWAT walk up Jumonville St. toward Fifth Avenue, Uptown, toward a building where it was believed a man with a gun was hiding, Tuesday, August 13, 2013. No one was apprehended, after a two to three hour search of the building and nearby locations turned up empty.
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police
Neil Joseph Harris, 27, has been charged with charging him with simple assault, making terroristic threats, possessing instruments of a crime and disorderly conduct in connection with an incident in Uptown on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013.

Pittsburgh police continued Tuesday night to search for a man who a witness said threatened people in the city's West Oakland neighborhood with a small machine gun earlier in the day.

A warrant was issued for Neil Joseph Harris, 27, charging him with simple assault, making terroristic threats, possessing instruments of a crime and disorderly conduct, police Lt. Kevin Kraus said.

The incident began about 8:30 a.m. and “tied up” police, fire and paramedic units for about four hours, Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant said.

It began when a woman went to an apartment on De Ruad Street looking for a person who assaulted her niece the night before, Bryant said. That person wasn't there but, according to the criminal complaint, Harris came out of the building complaining that the woman had awakened him and his children.

The woman said she apologized three times but that the man responded by pulling a small machine gun, Bryant said.

According to the complaint, Harris told the woman: “I have the artillery and I will shoot you and anyone you call that comes down here.” Harris then went onto the roof, she said.

“Officers never actually saw the suspect with a weapon,” Bryant said.

Heavily armed city police officers and SWAT teams swarmed the neighborhood, shut down nearby streets and told residents and those in the John Heinz Family Center day care to stay inside.

“My cousin went to the door, and they told him to get back inside,” said neighbor Stephanie Beechaum, 64. “I counted 23 people in camo go in with a battering ram.”

A state police helicopter helped about 30 SWAT officers and police monitor the roof. SWAT officers did not find Harris in a search of the building, Bryant said.

“The suspect had ample opportunity to leave the apartment by multiple exits,” Bryant said.

Beechaum described the street as relatively quiet.

“Most of the trouble is from people who don't live here,” Beechaum said. “They bring the drama and disappear.”

Margaret Harding and David Conti are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Harding can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com. Conti can be reached at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com. Staff writer Michael Hasch contributed to this report.

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