DA: Pellet gun wielded in fatal standoff looked real
District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. on Thursday did not clear a sheriff's deputy who shot an East Liberty man but said a pellet gun the man held looked real.
“I'm not saying that yet, but it looks as if the deputy did what he was trained to do,” Zappala said. “(The gun) looked real to me. It's about the exact type of weapon (an officer) was carrying today.”
Odell Brown, 19, died from a single shot fired by Deputy Sean Green in a 90-minute standoff on June 13 outside his home. Zappala, who walked through the North Euclid Avenue shooting scene with Pittsburgh homicide detectives and detectives from his office, said he continues to investigate.
Police said that Brown refused repeated requests to drop a gun and that Green fired when Brown pointed the gun at him.
Brown's mother, Andrea Stevens, 41, said she knew her son had a pellet gun and told her mother, Joyce Stevens, 58, who was in the house while Brown paced outside. Both women have questioned why police didn't ask them for information about Brown during the standoff.
Zappala said even if someone had relayed that information to police, officers couldn't have taken a chance and relied on it.
The Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP sent a letter to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald seeking an independent investigation.
The NAACP criticized the police actions, issuing a statement after the shooting asking why no one told police about the pellet gun and questioning whether they took every measure to spare Brown's life.
NAACP First Vice President Constance Parker said the group wrote to Ravenstahl and Fitzgerald to look into the matter and the policies and procedures police follow in those situations. Parker said she believes police thought Brown had a real gun.
“We call the police to protect us and we appreciate that,” Parker said. “I can believe (police thought he had a real gun). I don't question that. But what could have been done further to save his life? Maybe different decisions could have been made. It could have been done differently.”Amie Downs, Fitzgerald's spokeswoman, said he would defer questions to Zappala.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Total Trib Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.