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Gun 'accidentally discharged,' Lawrenceville slaying suspect says

| Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008

For two years, Eric Murray scanned faces in crowds, looking for the men who gunned down his son on a Lawrenceville street.

On Tuesday morning, Pittsburgh police cold case homicide detectives J.R. Smith and Scott Evans knocked on his door to deliver the news that they had two men in custody, charged with the shooting death of Murray's son, Michael Vaughn, 24.

"My birthday was on Friday, and I couldn't have asked for a better gift than this," said Murray, 43, of Sheraden.

"To know someone will pay for this helps tremendously. It has been tearing me up inside, and it's taken a very heavy toll on this family."

Ballistic tests on a gun taken from Christopher Moore, 21, of the North Side matched the 9 mm slug removed from Vaughn's body following the July 6, 2006, shooting. Moore and Rashad Briscoe, 21, of the Hill District were arrested Monday night on homicide, robbery and conspiracy charges, according to an arrest affidavit.

They are being held in the Allegheny County Jail without bond.

"The detectives did a tremendous job investigating this cold case," said homicide squad acting Sgt. Christine Williams.

Shortly after Vaughn was shot, Moore was wounded in a shooting. Police investigating that incident sent Moore's weapon for tests, but the backlog in cases awaiting testing delayed the results that linked the gun to Vaughn's death.

In their affidavit, the investigators said Moore and Briscoe were hanging out in the Hill District that evening and decided to find someone to rob. They stole a car on Fifth Avenue in Uptown and drove to Lawrenceville, where they spotted Vaughn standing at Butler and 44th streets. He had visited a street fair that evening with his brother, Murray said.

Briscoe told police he got out of the car, walked up to Vaughn and put the gun to his chest. He ripped from Vaughn's neck a gold chain with a charm bearing a depiction of Jesus. He told police the gun "accidentally discharged."

Briscoe ran to the car, and he and Moore sped away, through Polish Hill to the Hill District. Briscoe told investigators he sold the chain for $200 and bought beer, marijuana and crack cocaine.

"They killed my son for that?" Murray said. "Is that what his life was worth?"

Vaughn was taken to UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Oakland, where he remained on life support for 11 days.

"We took him off the machines when we realized there was no hope," Murray said. "At least we had 11 days to prepare to say goodbye to him."

Murray said his son, who has a daughter, now 5, was working at a Sharpsburg pizza shop and taking criminal justice classes at Community College of Allegheny County when he was killed.

Investigators don't believe Briscoe and Moore knew Vaughn, and characterize the incident as a random robbery.

"He wasn't in a gang or running drugs or anything," Murray said. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he paid with his life."

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