Knoxville residents pray for shooting victim's recovery; arrest made
His voice rang out as if through a megaphone in the muggy summer air.
“If you are out here shooting, you're going to jail,” said Jaison Waller as he stood in the center of a crowd on Zara Street in Knoxville. “I'll turn you in myself. … There's no more shooting on these streets. Period.”
More than 30 people gathered Monday night in front of the home where Isis Allen, 6, was shot and critically wounded Sunday. They prayed for her recovery and for an end to the city's gun violence.
“You killing kids out here,” said Waller, 45, of Knoxville, a member of South Hilltop Men's Group. “You're killing their innocence, and we're not accepting it no more.
Pittsburgh police late Monday announced an arrest in the shooting. Kamau Thomas Jr., 19, of Carrick was charged with one count of criminal attempted homicide, 12 counts of reckless endangerment, one count of carrying a firearm, said Public Safety spokeswoman Emily Schaffer.
“If there's gunshots, we need to all stick together to stop it,” Waller said. “When the police come, you got to speak up. If you don't speak up, it's going to continue to happen.”
The shooting occurred about 11 p.m. Sunday, said Schaffer.
After collecting evidence at the scene and interviewing about 20 people, investigators determined that Isis had been walking with an adult past a residence and was caught in the crossfire when shots were fired in the direction of a porch where several people had gathered, Schaffer said.
Isis suffered at least one gunshot wound to her head. Paramedics rushed her to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in critical condition.
“She's just a regular, average kid,” said John Parker, a friend of the girl's family.
She enjoys playing kickball, doing arts and crafts and being a cheerleader for the South Side Bears, a youth football team.
“It's a very sad situation,” said Parker, 38, of St. Clair. “Her mom is just devastated right now.”
Before the vigil, Parker and other members of the South Hilltop Men's Group, which they described as a civic-minded community organization, took part in a peace walk from Brownsville Road and Bausman Street in Mt. Oliver to the scene of the shooting. They chanted, “All lives matter” as they marched.
When they arrived on Zara Street, they formed a circle, joined hands and prayed. Isis' relatives wiped tears from their eyes as Waller and others spoke. Several children were in the crowd.
“I want them to be able to go play football or basketball and not have to worry about getting shot,” Waller said. “I'm sick of it. I'm tired. I've been praying on this and praying on this, and this is what it's come to, man. God is speaking, It's time right now.”
Cherl Evans, 55, lives about a block from the shooting. She came to the vigil with her 8-year-old granddaughter, Chelsey.
“I can't even let my granddaughter ride her bike unless I'm out here,” Evans said. “Because there's guns and there's drugs.”
She said the peace walk and vigil were necessary — and long overdue.
Despite the violence, “ain't nobody pushing me away no more,” Evans said. “Ain't nobody going to make me keep my grandbaby's bike in her hallway no more.
“I just hope she makes it through,” she said of Isis. “Lord, that could have been my grandbaby.”