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Gang activity suspected in South Oakland shootings
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Pittsburgh police are investigating whether a gang in South Oakland might be involved in a trio of incidents in which shots were fired Monday into houses, grazing a pregnant woman in the arm.

Members of the group, who have identifying tattoos and call themselves the South Oakland Crips, have been linked to a range of crimes over the past few months, including other shootings and a variety of robberies.

"The shots fired into the homes and vehicles may be related to the same group of guys," Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki of the Squirrel Hill police station said yesterday. "I believe that they belong to the same group, and they're responsible for a lot of the activity going on in South Oakland, Oakland, Shadyside, Morningside."

The most recent spate of violence in the neighborhood spans several streets in a three-block area. It began Monday about 1:20 p.m. when shots were fired into a house in the 3200 block of Ward Street. One of the stay bullets hit a vehicle owned by a neighbor of the targeted home. Two men were seen running away.

That night at about 10:15, a house in the 3500 block of Frazier Street came under assault. Inside were at least six people, including a 5-year-old, a 12-year-old, a 72-year-old woman and a 19-year-old woman who is nine months pregnant.

Around the same time, a nearby house in the 3200 block of Dawson Street was shot at several times.

Stangrecki said he did not know the motives behind the shootings. He said police have received information, however, that at least one of the incidents was related to a nonfatal shooting over the weekend in the Hill District.

"From what I gather, this weekend there were some shootings -- I'm not sure if they were reported or not -- possibly in the Hill District between the guys from South Oakland and some guys in the Hill," Stangrecki said.

"It's sort of sketchy information, but it may be related to [the shootings] over the weekend, and it carried out into South Oakland where some of these guys live and hang out."

Police confirmed that one man was shot early Sunday in the Cotton Club in the 2200 block of Webster Avenue. Another man was found shot outside the club on nearby Lawson Street. But whether that is the incident in question is not known.

Although the area represents only a small slice of Oakland, there have been numerous shootings and at least two homicides there during the past few years.

In August 2003, Donald Love, 31, of Orpwood Street in Oakland, was shot to death inside an apartment in the 3200 block of Ward Street. At the end of that month, Bryant Gurley, 19, of Hazelwood, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head in a playground on Boundary Street.

Both cases remain open.

Problems flared up again this year in March, when a house in the 3200 block of Ward Street was pounded by gunfire.

On April 14, there were reports of a shootout in the 3200 block of Parkview Street. One person was grazed.

That same day, a Carnegie teenager was arrested on Ward Street for robbing an Oakland pizza shop in February.

Extra patrols were added to the South Oakland area yesterday, and police cars were highly visible throughout the day, cruising by the sites of the shootings. Area residents said they felt better knowing the police were out in force.

"Every incident needs to be reported. Certainly, we can follow up and make an arrest in most cases, but we just need the information," Stangrecki said.

"The problem here is if people aren't coming forward or even reporting an incident, things begin to brew and culminate into what we see now."

First published on May 25, 2005 at 12:00 am
Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962.
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