BB gun shooting underscores tensions over drunken behavior in South Side
Like many South Side residents, William DiBattista was fed up with drunken revelers using his property as a urinal.
Whenever he saw them, he'd yell and holler, although it rarely made a difference. The small portico leading to DiBattista's second-story apartment off East Carson Street was too easy a target to ignore.
“It doesn't have to be a holiday. It's the weekend. It's all the time,” said DiBattista, 32, who tends bar at three South Side establishments. “I shouldn't be afraid to live in my neighborhood. No one should be afraid to live in their neighborhood.”
On St. Patrick's Day, DiBattista had had enough. His actions that day landed him in trouble, charged with aggravated assault. His trial is scheduled for Dec. 10.
DiBattista grabbed his BB gun and told himself he'd shoot the next person who did not heed his warning.
That person, according to police reports, was Jayson Livingston, 40, a landscape architect from Brentwood.
DiBattista fired a few shots. The last one struck Livingston in the eyelid.
“I didn't know what happened until he turned and started walking toward me,” DiBattista said.
DiBattista brought Livingston inside, pulled the BB out of his eye and cleaned off the wound. He said they both apologized.
Police charged Livingston with urinating in public. He pleaded not guilty in May, and a judge dismissed the charge in July. Livingston declined to comment.
Although DiBattista's story is unusual, his frustration is not. Neighbors, business owners and community leaders say the party in the South Side is spiraling out of control.
“It's Drunkapalooza,” Pittsburgh councilman Bruce Kraus said. “Imagine living in your house, and every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, for every playoff game, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, Halloween, St. Patrick's Day or any other reason, goofballs are using your property as a urinal, an ashtray. I cannot in any way defend (DiBattista's) actions, but I can certainly empathize, appreciate and understand his frustration.
“Everybody is at that level of anger and angst.”
Residents say they've taken a number of steps to ward off visitors who might vandalize their property, including installing storm doors and motion-sensor lights. Others have filled outdoor flower pots with cement so they can't be destroyed.
Charles Guys, 64, installed iron bars on his first-floor windows after a man he did not know crawled into his house a few years ago. The man, who was drunk, thought he was climbing into a friend's house, Guys said.
Pittsburgh police say it's difficult to have an officer on every street in the South Side when the Flats are a relatively small part of the zone, which includes Allentown, Arlington, Beltzhoover and Knoxville.
“Usually the South Side is absorbing most of our manpower (late at night),” Zone 3 Lt. Lori McCartney said. “Unfortunately, it is escalating in violence down there.”
The city put an extra patrol unit on Carson Street to deal with the crowds leaving the bars. Off-duty officers who also work private security details had been asked to stay an hour later — until 3 a.m. — but the police union complained about a discrepancy with overtime pay. In the arrangement, bars pay the city, which then pays officers.
“The problem is most of the issues are after the bars close, and that's when the detail officers leave,” McCartney said. “It would be a huge help if they were there helping with the aftermath.”
Police charged more people with liquor law violations, public intoxication and public drunkenness through 10 months of this year than in each of the previous two years.
Officers in Zone 3 charged 56 people with liquor law violations, 288 with public intoxication, and 346 with public drunkenness in 2010, police data show. Through October this year, police charged 144 people with liquor law violations, 451 with public intoxication and 378 with public drunkenness. Police were unable to break down the crimes by neighborhood.
Cathy Mitchell, president of the South Side Community Council, a neighborhood group, said the frustration is “coming to a head.”
“I think that the residents feel there is this change that instead of just drunks, there's a thug mentality,” Mitchell said.
She said community leaders are doing their part by developing a marketing campaign telling visitors: “Don't Ruin the Party.” Bartenders and servers will wear buttons and fliers displaying that message, and leaflets will be distributed at bars and restaurants.
In April, City Council agreed to pay the Responsible Hospitality Institute $100,000 to look at ways the city can better manage nightlife. The Santa Cruz, Calif.-based consulting firm has worked with more than 50 cities, from Cleveland and State College to Los Angeles and New Orleans, to help manage nightlife.
Kraus said 160 residents have been meeting every other month with institute officials, who plan to present recommendations to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl this month.
As for DiBattista, he hopes prosecutors will allow him to plead guilty to a lesser offense.
“I was never out to hurt anybody. I took action when the police couldn't. They shouldn't have to deal with that anyway,” he said.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Power outage shutters several Pitt campus buildings
- Minority employment report: Diversified workforce lacking in Western Pa.
- Federal jury says gas company shorted owners on royalties
- Loose barges on Monongahela River highlight woes of winter’s end
- ‘Bus rapid transit’ link from Oakland to Downtown slow to actualize
- 14 more arrested in connection with drug trafficking ring
- Pittsburgh chess tournament likely to include pair of grandmasters
- Newsmaker: James V. Eckles
- Teacher conduct under spotlight in Pennsylvania
- McCandless site set for Wal-Mart supercenter store
- Volunteer potters lend time for Empty Bowls Dinner fundraiser