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Valley grad dies of gunshot wounds

| Saturday, July 3, 2004

Former Valley High School basketball standout Christopher Miller died about 6:20 p.m. Friday at Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, two days after he was shot by a masked assailant in an Arnold alley.

Police said Miller, 18, of Woodmont Avenue, Arnold, might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time when he was shot less than 100 yards from his house about 9:20 p.m. Wednesday.

Police said Miller was standing in Woodbine Alley, about 10 yards from McCandless Street, talking to friends in a green Ford Taurus when he apparently saw or heard a man approaching down the darkened alley.

Miller apparently tried to wrestle a gun away from the masked man when two shots rang out. One of the shots hit Miller in the groin. The assailant fled and Miller was driven to Citizens Ambulatory Care Center in New Kensington before being flown to Allegheny General.

The shooting shocked the community and New Kensington-Arnold School District.

Miller played guard for Valley and graduated from the high school last month.

Vikings basketball coach Vern Benson said Miller was like his second son. Benson just completed his third year as the Vikings' coach, and Miller was a sophomore when Benson arrived to lead the team in 2001.

They often spent time off the court together, at cookouts at Benson's house or going to a half-dozen University of Pittsburgh Panthers basketball games during the time they knew each other.

"It's just devastating," Benson said. "He was a young man who had a lot going on for himself, had good grades, had a good head on his shoulders. Any time things were down, he was still smiling. I'm just numb. I'm really tore up over this."

Before Miller died, Benson visited him in the hospital. It was tough seeing the once-energetic athlete unable to speak because of his condition, Benson said.

The Allegheny County Coroner's office plans to do an autopsy today.

For police, it now becomes a homicide case.

Friday evening, Arnold Police Chief Joe Doutt said that after questioning more than 20 people, police are "looking at a couple people" who might have been the shooter, but he wouldn't elaborate.

A better description of the shooter wasn't available late Friday, Doutt said. Police are still not certain of a motive in the shooting.

For sure, at least two people witnessed the shooting. But Doutt said, "We'll talk to anybody if anyone knows any information. They'll be kept confidential."

Doutt said he knew Miller personally and that many, including Doutt, were praying for Miller to pull through.

"He was a very respectful young man, considerate, an athlete," Doutt said. "He had plans on attending Robert Morris (University). It's just a tragedy."

Additional Information:

To help

Anyone with information about the shooting death of Christopher Miller is asked to call Arnold Police at 724-339-9663.

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