Penn Hills shooting suspect could face gun-at-school charges, experts say
A suspect in the shooting death of a Penn Hills teenager who says he acted in self-defense could face other charges, even if police uphold his claim, according to experts.
The unidentified 22-year-old man has not been charged in the death of Deven Holloway, 16, a Penn Hills High junior, who died Tuesday afternoon near basketball courts at Linton Middle School, according to police.
The man, according to Pittsburgh attorney Phil DiLucente, has a valid concealed carry permit. He turned himself into Allegheny County police the night of the shooting, telling them he acted in self-defense. He was released without charges Wednesday morning.
Since the shooting happened on school property, the shooter could be charged with some degree of gun violations, said Sarah Daly, a professor of law and criminology at St. Vincent College.
Daly said Pennsylvania law is unclear regarding whether a person with a concealed carry permit is allowed to have a gun on school property.
“The way it is written, they say it's prohibited to carry a weapon on school property even with a permit. But, there's a clause in there that makes it a little hazy,” she said. She was referring to a section that allows guns on school grounds for a “lawful purpose.”
The state law regarding the possession of a weapon on school property states: “It shall be a defense that the weapon is possessed and used in conjunction with a lawful supervised school activity or course or is possessed for other lawful purpose.”
“So you could make the argument that it is necessary to carry a weapon,” said Daly.
Defense attorney Lea Bickerton agreed the statute lacks clarity since it “doesn't specify that a lawful purpose has to be tied to school activity... The Second Amendment right is technically a lawful purpose.”
Bickerton added that she expects the gunman to face gun-related charges.
“This person may very well be in trouble, but we're going to be dealing with an appealable issue,” she said. “I think the Allegheny County District Attorney would fight out a case to have this area more clearly defined.”
The Allegheny County District Attorney's office declined to comment.
Still, gun charges could be the least of the shooter's problems if police believe he did not act in self-defense.
Daly said the burden of proof lies on the state.
“To prove (it wasn't) self-defense, they would need to check with eyewitnesses and surveillance cameras from the school,” Daly said.
According to DiLucente, his client went to the middle school to play basketball when things turned violent.
The attorney said his client has a state-issued conceal carry permit and discharged his weapon after being attacked.
“A gun made contact with my client that caused injury and bruising,” DiLucente said.
It isn't clear what caused the altercation that resulted in the shooting at the parking lot adjacent to the school's basketball courts. DiLucente said the incident occurred before his client and the others got an opportunity to play on the muddy and puddle-filled courts Tuesday afternoon.
Allegheny County police are continuing to investigate the shooting and will file charges once the investigation is complete, said police Superintendent Coleman McDonough.
Samson X Horne is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach him at 412-871-2325 or firstname.lastname@example.org.