Handling of police chase enrages Wilkinsburg woman's family
The family of a Wilkinsburg woman whom Pittsburgh police shot at the end of a car chase is furious over the South Side incident, which left the woman brain-damaged, her brother said.
He said a bullet went through Lena Davenport's right eye when officers on East Carson Street opened fire early Sunday on a Buick driven by her son. The wound prompted multiple surgeries and a partial removal of her skull. Davenport, 49, remained in intensive care Thursday in UPMC Mercy, Uptown.
She doesn't remember what happened or recognize family members and might undergo more operations, said William Davenport, 52, of the Hill District.
“We're very outraged at the way the police handled themselves. For a traffic violation, I think the situation was handled very poorly,” he said.
Police would not immediately answer the criticism, citing an ongoing investigation into the incident and officers' actions. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office, which is looking into the matter, was not ready to discuss it, spokesman Mike Manko said.
“Providing a statement based on the handling of the incident would not be prudent at this time,” said police spokeswoman Diane Richard. Police officials “must ensure that all facts of the incident are accurate before providing information as appropriate for release.”
The city put five officers who opened fire on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure. Chief Nate Harper and a union official defended the officers' actions.
Lena Davenport was the sole passenger in the sedan when her son, Donald Burris Jr., 32, of Carnegie, ran a red light in Homestead, police said. He fled from an attempted traffic stop and led police five miles to East Carson Street, where he crashed in a hail of bullets.
Officers believed Burris endangered pedestrians and police, using the car as a weapon in a congested area, Harper has said.
Police charged Burris with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and fleeing an officer. He is in the county jail awaiting a Jan. 23 preliminary hearing.
William Davenport said police shot his nephew three times — in the chest, stomach and shoulder. Police initially said he was shot in the arm. Richard would not discuss his injuries.
Burris had gone to pick up his mother from a birthday party that night, his uncle said.
“She was just the innocent passenger,” said Leona Twyman of the West End, William Davenport's fiancee. She said Lena Davenport has “no idea” what happened. She can remember earlier events but has trouble comprehending her surroundings from her hospital bed, Twyman said.
“I'm almost positive that she's going to need assistance in every aspect,” Twyman said.
William Davenport said the family called Uptown-based attorney J. Kerrington Lewis and “wants to get to the truth of the matter.” Lewis confirmed he represents Lena Davenport and is investigating whether the shooting breached her civil rights.
“I think the circumstances have to be ferreted out, investigated thoroughly, and we'll go from there,” Lewis said.
“Our biggest concern right now is getting Lena back to health,” Davenport said, “if that's even possible.”
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- City of Pittsburgh detective, 2 boys finalize adoption before judge
- Identical twins born at West Penn Hospital a rare medical marvel
- Preparation for drilling closes one lane of Thompson Run Road in Ross
- Western Pa. colleges to emphasize curricula for energy, industrial fields
- State awards 6 Western Pennsylvania schools mentoring grants
- Marshals make arrest in fatal Strip District shooting
- Embattled VFW mulls image among declining numbers
- Pittsburgh Public evacuates 3 schools after voicemail threat
- Latest flu vaccines offer protection from 4 influenza strains instead of traditional 3
- Man shot outside his home in Penn Hills
- Professor, lawyer with Pittsburgh ties earn MacArthur ‘genius grants’