A father of two is dead, his girlfriend is recovering from a gunshot, and their family and friends in McKeesport are struggling to understand the city’s worsening violence.
“He was a very good father,” Melissa McPherson, 19, said of her brother Brian Cook. “He was home all the time with his son.”
McKeesport police were responding to a reported home invasion in the 2600 block of Versailles Avenue about 5:40 a.m. Wednesday when they found a man’s body upstairs and a woman with a gunshot wound to the hand, Capt. Tim Hanna said. McPherson and her mother, Darlene Cook, identified the man as Brian Cook, 24, and the woman as his girlfriend, Stephanie Pavlovic.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said Cook died of a gunshot to the head.
“He was my baby,” said Darlene Cook, 52, of McKeesport. “He was my only boy. I’m in shock.”
Hanna said it did not appear that anything was taken from the home. He referred further questions to Allegheny County police, who are investigating.
Isaiah Long, 61, who lives nearby, said he heard a woman screaming just before 6 a.m.
“I heard someone saying, ‘Don’t kill me, don’t kill me,’ ” Long said. “I heard the shots.”
Long said he has noticed 25 to 30 people coming and going from the house on a daily basis. He moved back to McKeesport in 2009 after living in California and said he’s upset with crime in the city.
“I thought California was bad. California can’t touch McKeesport,” Long said.
John Leggett, who said Brian Cook was his best friend, described him as a devoted father who spent his time caring for his 1-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter. He said Cook was known to host cookouts where anyone could stop by and get a plate of food.
“I am so lost right now,” Leggett said.
Leggett’s mother, Deborah Leggett, called on McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko to take action to reduce violence in the city. Cherepko did not return a message.
There have been five homicides this year in McKeesport, a city of nearly 20,000, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office. Two killings occurred in the city during the same span a year ago, records show.
“What is the mayor doing?” Deborah Leggett, 48, of Mc-Keesport asked. “This is a young man killed yet again in McKeesport.”
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or [email protected].