Family demands answers to shooting death of teenager, but police say witnesses won’t speak

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — This has become an almost nightly story on our newscasts: another shooting in an increasingly violent time in our region.

It’s a spike in gun violence we haven’t seen in decades and the victims are getting younger and younger. Last year, 28 teenagers were killed in Allegheny County and 11 so far this year. Many cases have gone unsolved due to a lack of cooperating witnesses.

Now, in part two of the KDKA Investigates Our Kids Are Dying series, we focus on the grief that so many families face, like Steven Eason’s loved ones. He would have turned 16 this month, but died last fall aged 15.

“I will never see my son’s driver’s license or go to his first dances. The pain is unimaginable,” Eason’s mother Shantel Pizaro said.

Eason was shot and killed on a wagon ride while trying to defend a friend.

“Steven was a great boy. He was happy and full of jokes. He could light up a room,” Pizaro said.

The loss of this popular and promising student at Central Catholic High School has left his school in mourning and has awakened the community at large to the terrible toll of youth gun violence, which has claimed the lives of dozens of teenagers in our region over the past two years.

For his family, the pain is even greater because his murder remains unsolved and his killer is still free.

“There are times when I’m paralyzed with grief and knowing that this person is still walking, talking, living their life, breathing, and Steven isn’t. It’s really unfair,” the grandfather said. Eason’s mother, Shelline Pizaro-Williams.

As in many homicides, there were no arrests in Eason’s murder due to a lack of cooperating witnesses.

At the time of the shooting, there were about 50 people in the vicinity but none, including the boy he saved, came forward to identify the shooter.

“It’s tough. Our detectives are struggling with this. We’ve reached out to the community to try to get information from the very many people who were there when Steven was killed,” the deputy superintendent of the Allegheny County Police, Victor Joseph.

“I know someone must have seen something. And if you have any conscience, step in. Give the police whatever information you have. We need closure,” Pizaro-Williams said.

Last year, the Pittsburgh Police Bureau made arrests or otherwise cleared 55% of its cases. So far this year, only 26% has been cleared and most remain unsolved, including the two recent Airbnb deaths and the January fatal shooting of 15-year-old Marquis Campbell outside Oliver Citywide Academy.

While police still hope to make arrests in these cases, more and more officers are relying on surveillance cameras and cellphone video to solve crimes, but cases where none are available are not prosecuted.

Street outreach coordinator Richard Garland said witnesses felt unsafe and believed the police could not protect them.

Shehan: “If you need a witness, no one will testify?”

Garland: “No. It’s the code. It’s the code. Until it happens to them.”

But to stop the violence, police and families say that must change.

“Our detectives work hard. They are very talented. But they are only one piece. We need the community, we need the help of the community. If it’s just us, we’re going to fail,” Joseph said.

And the Eason family is begging people to do the right thing, not just for their families, but for all families.

“If it was you, you would want someone to stand up for your child. You would want someone to come forward and get justice for your child in times of need,” Pizaro said.

So what are the solutions to end this wave of gun violence among young people? Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey calls gun violence a public health crisis and demands a public health response. What does that mean? And can it work? We’ll investigate that when our series continues Friday night on KDKA News at 6 p.m.

For the first part of the series, Click here.

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