Arrest made in shooting near Brashear High School

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PITTSBURGH - Police have made an arrest in the shooting near Brashear High School.

Anjohnito "AJ" Willet, 16, was taken into custody and faces several charges, including four counts of attempted homicide, police said. 

Three male students were ambushed and shot near their high school just before 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.

Willet faces a fourth attempted homicide charge because a fourth person was with the victims at the time of the shooting.  He was not hurt, police said.

During a press conference on Wednesday night, police said they believe the shooting happened as a result of an alleged assault and robbery at Brashear High School on Oct. 18.  Police said Willet was the victim.

“It was reported to the school police.  It was investigated.   He failed to cooperate with the investigation and made statements like he would take it into his own hands,” said Lt. Kevin Kraus.

After the alleged assault and robbery, Willet did not return to school, police said.

Police said there was heightened security at Brashear after the alleged assault and robbery.

Six persons of interest were taken into custody shortly after the shooting Wednesday.  

There were early reports after the shooting that three shooters may have been involved. 

Police said Wednesday night that they believe Willet was the only shooter.  They said another person was with Willet during the shooting.   The third person mentioned in initial reports was simply walking through the woods where police were searching and had nothing to do with the shooting, police said.

The victims, who are believed to be friends, had just left school before they were shot, police said.

“The shots were fired from a wooded area.  We believe the victims had left school and were walking near the intersection of Crane when they were fired upon,” said Kraus.

Pittsburgh Public Schools spokesperson Ebony Pugh said the victims were not on school property when they were shot but were close by.

“The students ran to the school for safety. I want to be clear: The shooting did not occur in the school,” said acting Pittsburgh Police Chief Regina McDonald.

One student was shot in the leg and foot, one was shot in the neck and shoulder and one was grazed in the head. Pugh said two of the shooting victims are 11th-grade students, and the third is in ninth grade.

“Right now, the only thing we know is he has been shot. He was shot in the neck,” said Terri Minor, the aunt of one of the victims.  “This is crazy.  This is sad.  This isn’t right.”

Brashear, with about 1,400 students in grades nine through 12, was locked down briefly, though students were released to their parents about 90 minutes after the shooting.

Several students and parents talked to Channel 11 News about the chaotic scene.

“All I heard were gunshots.  I just thought it was kids playing around.  My friend said, ‘A kid is laying on the ground, and there is blood.’ Everyone started running,” said senior Krystal Henson.

“We were driving home from school and all of a sudden, we heard three gunshots.  This kid gets picked up.  He was bleeding from his head.  There was blood everywhere,” said a student who called into Channel 11. “It was traumatizing.  It was me in a car with five other girls."

Sydney Lieb, 17, a junior at Brashear, said she heard about six gunshots outside the school five minutes after classes let out.

“Everybody started running up (Crane Avenue),” she said. “It was pop, pop, pop, pop!”

“Both Brashear and South Hills will be open tomorrow but will be secured on modified lockdown for the remainder of the week. A modified lockdown means that only students, staff and visitors with a scheduled appointment will be able to enter the school building. We are taking this matter seriously and focusing on the safety of our students. Our thoughts go out to the families of the victims,” Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Linda Lane said.

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto released the following statement about the shooting: “I commend the men and women of our Pittsburgh Police Bureau, Pittsburgh Public School Police, and cooperating agencies, for their swift response to the shootings earlier this afternoon near Brashear High School.

"I am pleased that none of the injuries appear to be life threatening, that several persons have been brought in for questioning, and I thank residents of the surrounding neighborhoods for their cooperation.

"While our officers were prepared for the worst, we are very pleased that the shooting did not occur in the school or on school premises.

"My thoughts and prayers tonight are with the students, parents, and their families.  I know how stressful this situation was for them today, and I understand that counselors will be available on-site at Brashear tomorrow.

"I will make sure that we continue to do everything we can as a city to maintain a safe environment for our children, whether in our schools or neighborhoods.”

According to a Safe Schools report filed annually with the state, Brashear had 97 incidents involving 138 people during the 2012-13 school year, but none resulted in a police response or arrests. Forty-seven students were disciplined for fighting, the report said.