Despite more police, arrests and the closing of the homeless shelter, problems persist on Smithfield Street, including the deadly shooting on Thursday night.
A surveillance camera captured the shooting. The video shows a skirmish and a fight before a gun is pulled and shots are fired. A man later identified as 23-year-old Lonnie Latham III falls to the street and is later pronounced dead.
Another man picks up a gun believed to be Latham’s and fires more shots, the video shows. A man and a woman were wounded, but not fatally, in the melee.
“When these incidents occur, it shakes the core of our community and compromises the safety of those who work live and play Downtown,” Pittsburgh Police Chief Larry Scirotto said.
Despite efforts to tame the drug sales, crime and violence on Smithfield Street — they continue.
The street right now is a magnet for the drug dealers,” Carl Herrmann of Carl Herrmann Furs said.
Though the Smithfield Street homeless shelter is closed, merchants like Herman say drug sellers and drug users continue to congregate, resulting in incidents like Thursday night.
“That’s a concern, and I think it’s something that can be addressed,” he said.
Since June, Scirotto says police have made more than 50 drug arrests on Smithfield Street. But many of those arrested are back on the street, including Latham — who was arrested in April on charges of selling crack. Latham was out on $5,000 bail when he was shot and killed.
“The reality is there are a lot of cracks in the system, but we know that,” Gainey said. “The cracks in the system are why we are in this position where we are right now.”
And Scirotto says it’ll take more time.
“This effort’s ongoing,” he said. “We didn’t get here over the last few months and it will take some time to get out of it, but we are committed to that level of enforcement.”
Scirotto said Latham and others known to police had been congregating near A Place To Toast, which city records show does not have a liquor license or a liquor occupancy permit, and the chief said he’ll talk to the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office to investigate.
“If it is creating and causing violence in our city, then it is a bar that has to be put out of business,” he said.
“If it’s a problem, it got to go,” Gainey said.
Scirotto says the city will continue to make arrests and pursue cooperation agreements to get the dealers out and bring order back to Smithfield.
“It has the focus and attention of the bureau, it has my attention, it has the mayor’s attention, the public safety director’s attention and our officers’ attentions,” Scirotto said, “to continue to hold those accountable who are causing violence and preying on those most vulnerable by selling drugs.”