6 shootings in 6 weeks rattle residents in New Kensington, Arnold | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

6 shootings in 6 weeks rattle residents in New Kensington, Arnold

Natasha Lindstrom
Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Arnold police check Woodbine Alley as part of their investigation into a man who was shot there Sunday evening.
Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Arnold police have a car on Victoria Avenue towed away as part of their investigation into a man who was shot in a nearby alley Sunday evening.

Larry Rowe woke shortly after 1:30 a.m. in late May to the piercing sound of back-to-back gunshots on his Arnold block.

The 74-year-old retired high school history teacher nudged his wife and headed toward his bedroom window.

“I rolled out of my bed, I’m almost to the window, and then I heard the next six rounds — pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow.

“I saw the policemen and they were walking around on that porch,” Rowe recalled from his front yard Sunday afternoon as he gestured toward the 1600 block of Woodbine Alley, where gunfire was exchanged.

That May 21 shooting involved a white SUV that was riddled with bullets by the time police found the car along Constitution Boulevard near Ninth Street, police said. Inside, they found a man who had been shot at least once. He was taken to a nearby hospital and listed in stable condition.

A string of shootings in Arnold and New Kensington in recent weeks has rattled residents in the area.

6 shootings in 6 weeks

In the latest incident, a man died after he was shot in an alley near Taylor and Woodmont avenues in Arnold about 6:30 p.m. Friday, initial reports indicate. Officials responded to a report of a shooting and found a man suffering from a gunshot wound who died soon after, according to Detective John Clark of the Westmoreland County District Attorney’s Office.

Scant details are available about what happened and who was involved. As of Sunday night, no arrests have been made. The man who died has not yet been identified by the Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office, pending notification of next of kin.

The incident marked at least the sixth shooting in the area in the past six weeks.

Several people who live near Woodbine Alley and the surrounding few blocks told the Tribune-Review they are counting on police for answers and increased efforts to thwart crime and drug sales in their neighborhood — particularly in dark alleys between homes.

Other recent shootings include:

• Shortly before 7 p.m. on June 16, Father’s Day, a 25-year-old man was shot in the hip on Woodbine Alley near Victoria Avenue. Police initially thought it was a drug deal gone bad, then said they believed it was a setup and that three people had plotted to rob the victim while he sought to buy marijuana. A woman led the victim to Woodbine Alley, police said. Once he climbed into a red sedan, two men pulled out guns and a struggle ensued before the victim was shot.

• On June 14, a house in the 500 block of Fourth Avenue at Fifth Street was struck by a stray bullet when shots were fired around 4 p.m. Police said they suspect that John’Tai Cannon, a 17-year-old originally from Ohio, fired the shots. Cannon faces charges including aggravated assault.

• On June 1, at least one bullet struck a car on North Street near Leishman Avenue near where New Kensington meets Arnold. Police received a report of shots fired about 12:40 p.m. No injuries were reported.

• On May 23, a Tribune-Review newspaper delivery driver, 69-year-old Gregory L. Smith, died after he was shot in the head while out on his route shortly after 3 a.m. near Catalpa Street and Kenneth Avenue. He was found inside his Chevrolet Impala, which crashed into a fence and up on a sidewalk in front of two houses. Trib Total Media is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of any suspects.

All incidents remain under investigation.

• Earlier this month, Shawden L. “Black” Ross, 32, of Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood was ordered to stand trial in the April 5 killing of Lamont Simmons, 27, who was shot and killed about 4 a.m. near 16th Street and Ivy Alley in Arnold. Police said the shooting followed an early-morning argument captured on video surveillance and that Ross blamed Simmons for setting him up to be robbed.

‘I don’t want it to be normal’

On Sunday afternoon, several longtime Arnold residents lamented that public safety issues seem to be on the rise. Several people said they’re careful not to walk alone at night. Some said they even were considering moving over safety concerns.

“This year has been bad, a lot of close gunfire,” said Dennis Downard, 54, whose family has lived in the same Arnold home for five decades. He has a concealed carry permit and carries a gun with him often in case he needs it for protection.

“That’s a bad drug alley over there,” he said, gesturing toward Woodbine Alley. “I see drug deals every day. … It used to be a nice area, way back in the day. … It’s changed. Too many young kids with guns.”

Others said they still feel relatively safe and would never leave.

“Does it worry me? Yes. But I’ve lived here for 45 years,” said Rowe, who raised his five children on Victoria Avenue and taught at Valley High School for 35 years. “I don’t like the idea of shootings and stuff, but I’m not going anywhere.”

Rowe said that when he first moved in, just about every house on the block was filled, and few if any houses even had a fence blocking off their yards.

“I knew everybody in every house. I still do, mostly. But this house is empty. That house right there is empty. I think they just sold this one.”

The steep job and population losses of the 1970s and 1980s left behind still-lingering blight, vacant homes and lots and dilapidated rental properties with high turnover — obstacles that many of Western Pennsylvania’s former mill and factory towns continue to confront.

The killing of Smith, the newspaper delivery driver, prompted New Kensington police to step up patrols from Seventh Street to the Arnold line and Constitution Boulevard to Freeport Road, police Chief Bob Deringer told the Tribune-Review last month.

Rowe said he’s noticed a slight uptick in Arnold officers cruising around, too.

“I noticed there’s more patrols, a little more policemen come by,” he said. “I’ve seen them come down one street, then double-back down the alley, which is cool.”

Police were not available Sunday to comment on possible connections among the recent shootings beyond their proximity.

One woman who recently moved near Woodbine Alley from elsewhere in Arnold said she’s already considering moving again. When she heard a gunshot fired on Father’s Day, she said she was almost afraid to go outside to check to see if someone was hurt, for fear of getting caught in the crossfire.

“You could smell the gunpowder in the air,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified out of safety concerns. “The sad part is it was broad daylight.”

She said she’s hopeful that police can find a way to reduce such crime.

“I don’t want it to be common,” she said. “I don’t want it to be normal. I don’t want it to be something that we’re used to.”

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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