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Mom forces teen to surrender in fatal shooting at Waterfront

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 8:42 a.m.
Imani Porter, 20, of Point Breeze in a photo that appears on his Facebook page. Police said Porter was shot to death late Wednesday while sitting in a car with several other men at The Waterfront. Drugs were found at the scene, police said.

A mother forced her son to surrender Thursday for his suspected role in a fatal drug deal at The Waterfront, a popular shopping, dining and entertainment complex along the Monongahela River.

Police arrested Jaron Young, 17, of Penn Hills on homicide, robbery, conspiracy and weapons charges in the death of Imani Porter. Popular Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa said Porter was his uncle.

“It was the right thing to do,” Ronnica Sanders, 41, said, hours after her son's arrest. “I didn't raise my kid to be in the street. I didn't. I raised him to be a respectable young man in the community.”

Porter, 20, of Point Breeze was shot in the head about 8:10 p.m. Wednesday while sitting in a car in the parking lot of the Steak ‘n Shake in the Munhall section of the complex, Allegheny County Police Lt. Andrew Schurman said. Porter died early Thursday in UPMC Mercy.

Detectives hope surveillance cameras positioned throughout The Waterfront will aid in the investigation, said Mike Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.

Zappala announced plans for security cameras in late 2008 following homicides at two restaurants at the complex. In 2005, a man was shot inside the AMC Loews Waterfront movie theater and died less than an hour later.

The Waterfront spans three boroughs: Munhall, Homestead and West Homestead. Homestead police Chief Jeffrey DeSimone said violent crimes at the complex are rare. Retail theft is most common, he said.

“This place down here is a wonderful place to come and enjoy yourself, to do your shopping, grab a bit to eat, see a movie. It's not a problem area,” he said.

Management at The Waterfront did not return calls.

According to a criminal complaint, police suspect Porter was shot during a heroin deal gone bad. Porter and two friends arranged to meet Young at the restaurant to sell him heroin. During the transaction, Young pointed a gun in the face of Porter's friend and said, “Let us get this one for free.”

The fourth man in the car pointed a gun in Porter's face, prompting him to say, “Go ahead bro, take it,” the complaint said.

Porter's friend heard one gunshot and saw that Porter had been shot in the head. Young and the other man fled the scene in a white Pontiac. Police are still searching for the other man.

Sanders said police knocked on her door Thursday morning asking for her son, who was not home. Police told her they did not believe her son was the shooter. She did not know whether her son was involved with drugs. She does not think he went to Steak ‘n Shake to buy heroin.

“You have to have money to buy heroin. He didn't have no money,” she said.

Young surrendered at the office of District Judge Scott Schricker in Turtle Creek.

Jibril Abdulhafith, a chaplain at the Allegheny County Jail, said his son was a warm, generous person who went to grocery stores to help carry food out to people's cars. He knew his son had problems with drugs, including arrests for marijuana possession, but cautioned that court records do not tell a person's whole story.

“Imani had a forward vision,” said Abdulhafith, 66. “He was just trying to go forward and build a life.”

Porter graduated from Allderdice High School, attended Community College of Allegheny County and recently enrolled in Triangle Tech, his father said.

Soon after the shooting, Khalifa remembered Porter on Twitter.

“My uncle was younger and more level headed than all of us,” Khalifa tweeted. “I would have never seen this happening in a million years.”

Abdulhafith, Khalifa's grandfather, said Porter stood backstage whenever the rapper performed in Pittsburgh. He said the family was close.

Porter's death is Allegheny County's first homicide of 2014. There were 91 homicides in the county in 2013, 45 outside Pittsburgh.

Aaron Aupperlee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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