Mayor: 'All hands on deck' needed to keep South Side safe

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PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced Tuesday several short-term solutions to crime and violence in the city's South Side.

"It's clear we need an all-hands-on-deck strategy," Ravenstahl said.

Among the changes, the mayor said beginning this Friday there will be increased building inspectors and firefighters patrolling the area to crack down on overcrowded bars.

"It's a pretty safe bet that if you're here breaking the law in any shape or form, you're going to be cited," Ravenstahl said.

Police will also saturate alleyways and look for disorderly conduct. Roving DUI patrols and towing enforcement will also be present.

Ravenstahl didn't say how much the solutions will cost, but admitted that restoring civility to the South Side will be expensive.

The announcement comes after police charged the driver who led officers on a chase through several communities. That chase ended when police fired at the vehicle on a crowded South Side street.

Police charged Donald Burris Jr, 32, of Carnegie with several counts of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and one count of fleeing an officer.

Homestead police began pursuing Burris, whose mother Lena Davenport, 47, was a passenger, when he ran a red light at Hays Street and 8th Avenue about 1:40 a.m. on Sunday, police said.

Burris drove through Homestead and West Homestead and finally onto Carson Street as officers tried direct crowds emptying the bars and nightclubs onto the sidewalks, police said.

Burris was about 30 feet away from Pittsburgh police Sgt, Stephen Matakovich and Detective Calvin Kennedy, when both men opened fire along with three other officers, according to a criminal complaint.

The car crashed into numerous vehicles along East Carson Street before coming to a stop between 13th and 14th streets, police said.

Lauren Berie told Channel 11’s Vince Sims that she was leaving the South Side Saturday night when the chaotic scene broke out.

“We saw the gun and saw the guy get shot,” Berie said. “My friend’s boyfriend pulled me and her into a little corner. Our guy friends were kind of shielding us.”

Brian Vetere, who owns Carson City Saloon, said many people were rushed back inside bars for safety.

“It was just pandemonium,” Vetere said. “We were just trying to keep people inside, and we shut down the business. We stopped serving drinks because we didn’t want people to keep drinking with the commotion happening.”

Police have not said how many total shots were fired or if police continued to fire after the Buick was stopped. One bystander was grazed by a bullet.

“We allowed people to come in if they were frightened with all of the commotion. We didn’t want anybody getting hurt,” Vetere said.

All five officers were working off-duty security details, police said.

Burris was shot in the arm and broke his arm when the Buick crashed. Davenport was more seriously injured with a bullet wound to the face. They were taken to local hospitals, but their conditions were not known Tuesday.

The officers were placed on paid administrative leave while police investigate, which is standard procedure.

“I give cops complete credit for what they did. The fact that they had the confidence to do that with hundreds of people around is great,” Berie said.

Ravenstahl is expected to discuss a $100,000 study of the South Side bar scene and its problems. The city last year hired the California-based Responsibility Hospitality Institute to examine neighborhood entertainment venues and their problems and recommend resolutions.

 

Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.