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Copy-Cat Sniper? Police Seek Suspect in PA. Child Shooting

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 for observation.

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, McNeilly said.

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, McNeilly said.

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.

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