by Michael Hasch, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A large contingent of city police officers, using dogs and a
helicopter, were searching Tuesday night for the gunman who shot and
slightly wounded a youth football league player during practice on
the field at McKinley Park in Beltzhoover and Knoxville.
Pittsburgh police Chief Robert W. McNeilly Jr. said police believe
the shots were fired from the wooded hillside overlooking the field.
"He appeared to have been shot by a BB or pellet gun or possibly a
(small-caliber) firearm," McNeilly said.
The 9-year-old victim was admitted to Children's Hospital in Oakland
in fair condition with what a spokesman described as an "abrasion"
wound of the lower hip and abdomen area. He was to be kept overnight
Police did not identify the victim, but witnesses said he was Chris
Bradley-Bey, a student at Beltzhoover Elementary school.
McNeilly said the projectile caused a flesh wound but did not
penetrate. Other investigators said the boy was hit in an area
guarded by hip pads, which probably prevented more serious injury.
The shooting occurred about 7:30 p.m. as the youth and some of his
teammates were standing on the sidelines near the 15-yard line of the
field located off Bausman Street, McNeilly said.
McNeilly admitted that the sniper shootings in Washington, D.C., have
law enforcement authorities concerned about a possible copycat, but
said there is probably a less sinister explanation for the shooting.
"We believe there were some young kids in the woods, target
shooting," McNeilly said.
Nevertheless, officers from a number of neighborhoods converged on
the area to set up a perimeter and begin searching the woods,
State police, as well as Allegheny County Sheriff's Deputies and Port
Authority of Allegheny County police officers also were seen in the
area. A television news helicopter was asked to aid in the search.
"When you have a young man shot while practicing football, that
concerns us," said McNeilly in explaining the heavy police presence.
More than two dozen players from the undefeated Beltzhoover Browns
youth football team were practicing for Saturday's playoff game
against Hazelwood when the shooting occurred.
Because the area is known for youths setting off firecrackers and
taking target practice in the woods, many parents and youngsters at
practice initially believed they heard firecrackers going off,
Then they saw the blood on the boy's uniform.
"All I heard was the coach yelling for everybody to get off the
field," one player said. "I was the first one running. I was scared."
"I'm real scared. I think it could happen to me," he said. "I'm
thinking about not going back to practice (today)."
The player also said he saw the victim lying on the ground after the
shooting, screaming: "Could somebody please call the ambulance!"
Harold Lewis, who coaches another team in the youth football
organization, said, "as I drove up, I saw all the kids hiding behind
one of the coaches' truck, and all the coaches were administering
first aid to the boy who was shot. There was blood in his groin area.
"I hustled my son into my car. It's funny, my wife and I were talking
that we have family coming up from Washington, D.C., for a visit,"
Lewis said. "We were saying they must be feeling relieved that they
were getting out of all that down there for a while.
"This can happen anywhere. We're all in the middle of this. The
randomness of it all. You see it on TV and then someone else goes out
and does it," Lewis said.