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DA joins Esplen shooting case

| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008

The Allegheny County district attorney is investigating an Esplen bar where eight people were wounded in a weekend shooting.

Before Sunday's incident at the Riverside Bar and Grill on West Carson Street, police and city and state officials dealt with reports of fights, underage drinking and failing to get a health permit. But the tavern is not on the city's nuisance bar list, officials said Monday.

"Several police and city officials have been in touch and asked us to look into the situation at this bar," said Mike Manko, spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.

Pittsburgh police arrested one of the wounded -- Shaun Murphy, 19, of McKees Rocks -- on gun charges in connection with the 2:54 a.m. shooting. He and five others between the ages of 20 and 35 wound up at local hospitals.

A 22-year-old man who was shot in the back was in critical condition. A 21-year-old woman who was in a car that wrecked while fleeing from the scene was in stable condition, police said. No names were released.

Police said they found a gun hidden in the engine compartment of Murphy's car when he drove to Ohio Valley Hospital. He was not charged with shooting anyone.

Police said the initial investigation revealed that "an altercation" in the bar might have led to the shooting, but they did not return calls yesterday seeking further information.

The state Liquor Control Board is looking into a 2007 complaint regarding bartenders at the Riverside Bar and Grill refilling empty liquor bottles for reuse and a January complaint that the bar sold alcohol to minors, said liquor control spokesman Nick Hays.

The bar, owned by Melanie S. Snyder, no age or address available, has been fined three times since 2005, Hays said. In 2005, a $100 fine was levied for failure to maintain a valid health permit, he said.

The bar was fined $200 on two occasions in 2007, Hays said, for not keeping proper records and for not being a "bona fide restaurant." Hays said the owner has a restaurant liquor license and is required to serve food and have adequate utensils and seating.

Snyder could not be reached.

City Councilman Dan Deasy, whose district includes Esplen, said he's received numerous complaints in the past three years about activity in and around the bar.

"Residents say the bar has brought drug use and prostitution into the area and they're tired of it," Deasy said. "Hopefully, we'll figure out a solution."

Police said the shooting investigation has been hampered by a lack of cooperation from the more than 100 people in and around the bar at the time of the incident.

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