ShareThis Page
Revenge fueling murders |

Revenge fueling murders

David Conti
| Friday, September 12, 2003 12:00 p.m

In the days before his death, Markel “Maurice” Williamson talked nervously about the recent killings of his crime associates, police said.

He probably never saw the gunman who crept out of the shadows of Brinton Manor in Braddock Hills on Monday night and put a bullet in the back of his head.

Williamson, 20, of Lawrenceville, who police said made a living robbing drug dealers, become another victim of a cycle of retaliatory slayings that has put Allegheny County on pace to equal the record-setting year of 1993, when 118 people died as gangs and crack cocaine took hold of the region.

There have been 79 homicides in the city and county this year, averaging about nine a month. The total was 18 in August, with four more in the first days of September.

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County police are struggling to infiltrate the culture that holds to a street code that punishes wrongdoing with death. In the city, where 22 of this year’s 48 killings remain unsolved, police have tracked separate patterns of retaliation in three major neighborhoods — the North Side, the Hill District and Homewood.

“I can’t say our hands are tied, but it’s very hard,” said Pittsburgh police Assistant Chief William Mullen, who oversees the investigation branch. “We’re trying new things. But when you have these killings going on in different areas, it’s impossible to predict where it will heat up next.”

In August, shootings began in the Hill neighborhoods of Bedford Square, Elmore Square and Sugartop. Three people died in five days — Tamara Robinson, 21, on Aug. 17; Shane Folks, 17, on Aug. 21; and Michael Johnson, 25, on Aug. 22.

“It started over a simple thing. Someone from one side disrespected the girlfriend of someone from another section,” Mullen said.

Police focused their patrols on the Hill and sent the narcotics impact squad there. They seized guns from homes and made several arrests.

“They’re locking more of these thugs up here,” said Roland Drees, 53, a longtime Hill resident. “That’s all the police can do.”

Then other neighborhoods erupted.

On the North Side, drug dealers began shooting each other in small turf battles. Police have linked two killings — including Tuesday’s drive-by shooting of Ronald Holland — to that cycle.

In Homewood, Darion Parker, 16, died on the front porch of a friend’s home Aug. 13 when someone opened fire with an assault rifle. On Aug. 19, a suspect in that shooting, Michael Baccus, 18, was killed in Wilkinsburg. Baccus’ suspected killer, Dante Wilson, has not been caught. His friend, Anthony “Smoke” Hammond, 23, was fatally shot Aug. 28.

Then Williamson — who police said knew Wilson, Baccus and Hammond — was killed Monday. County police are handling that case and are trying to track how they are connected.

“It’s a lot of robbery and retaliation,” county homicide Sgt. Christopher Kearns said. “But finding out what they’re retaliating for is a challenge. Drug dealers don’t call the police when they’re robbed. They take care of it themselves.”

County police hope that arresting a few key players — such as Wilson — will put a lid on the killings.

City police want to do the same. Investigators also are trying to arrest those who carry guns and deal drugs before they start killing. When city police arrest someone carrying a gun illegally, the information is sent to U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan’s office for review.

“If they can take the prosecution, we can get people off the street faster and longer,” Mullen said. “We did it on the North Side last year, and it stopped a crew of guys who were killing people in broad daylight.”

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.