Police, community get together after
On the morning of June 22, Tyrone Harris began firing at random in the alleys around Knoxville United Church.
About 30 minutes later, after shooting at police on Route 51 after stealing a car and leading officers on a two-mile chase, the 20-year-old Knoxville resident was shot and killed. Even though the danger had seemingly passed, police officers and pastors stood on corners surrounding the church to ensure the safety of children arriving for the summer lunch program.
“It was so wonderful to see the community come together like that,” Rev. Mary Ann Strader said. She is executive pastor of Kingdom Life Fellowship Pittsburgh, which administers the free lunch program.
“You hear so much negativity on the national news about the police and the dissidence in some communities – which may be well founded – but here it was so beautiful to see the police and community work together,” she said.
Rev. Strader was among roughly 200 people at a July 1 family dinner night at the church in which Pittsburgh Police officers helped serve food in appreciation of the community for their actions and support on June 22.
On that day, the police responded to calls of a shooter by the Hilltop Community Children’s Center.
Center employees moved the children to safety in the basement while community members assisted in directing police to the crime scene.
Police spokesperson Sonya Toler said the information provided by local residents was important in defusing an extremely dangerous situation.
Like Rev. Strader, Rev. Frederick White, senior pastor of Kingdom Life Fellowship Pittsburgh, was equally impressed with the police, thanking them publicly at the event for their service to the community and for reaching out to the neighborhood on this day.
“I’m grateful to see that in tragedy we’re able to come together,” he said.
The evening began with attendees holding hands in a circle as Rev. White lead them in prayer, followed by his thanking law enforcement for their fast response.
Among the attendees was Christian Nowlin of Belthoover who said he came hoping to hear how the city and police plan to deal with youngsters in the community.
“A lot of kids are misguided.
“We need programs that address some of the ills in the community, and are centered around the escalating violence,” he said.
To that end, he recently co-founded the South Hilltop Mens Group to help young men resolve issues before the problems lead to gun violence.
The organization meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays across from the Zone 3 police station atop a former flower shop.
He said he would like a similar response from the city.
Another group co-founder, Jmar Bey of Beltzhoover, said lessons can be learned from Tyrone Harris’ story.
“He was a troubled young man with a lot of problems who came from a community with a lot of problems and a social service system that also has a lot of problems,” he said.
The vast access to firearms on the Hilltop must also be challenged, he said.
He called for addressing the needs of young African-Americans on the Hilltop, especially young men.
After dinner, certificates of appreciation were awarded by the police department to Rev. White and to the staff of the Hilltop Community Children’s Center for protecting children and helping the police.
“To create a safe haven for kids we must all come together,” Rev. White said.
“It is times like these that I am reminded of the importance of community and being good neighbors,” city Councilman Bruce Kraus said.
“When I see a crowd like this tonight, and it seems sometimes that the world is going crazy, I realize there is still a neighborhood that genuinely cares for each other,” he said.