One of 4 questioned in Wilkinsburg mass shooting named suspect

WILKINSBURG, Pa. — One of four people questioned Wednesday in connection with a mass shooting in Wilkinsburg is now considered a suspect, according to a spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.

Robert Thomas was questioned Wednesday, when drug and weapons charges were filed against him in connection with an incident that took place more than three years ago. However, it was revealed Thursday morning that he is being looked at as a suspect in the March mass shooting in which six people died, including an unborn child.%



In a statement released Thursday, DA spokesman Mike Manko said:

“At a bond hearing this morning on a case involving drug and weapons charges against Robert Thomas, it was revealed through statements by both prosecution and defense counsel that Thomas is considered a suspect in the March 9 shootings in Wilkinsburg. That information was then further confirmed through testimony from an Allegheny County homicide detective. Following our argument that we consider Thomas a flight risk and a danger to the community based on his previous record and the drug and weapons charges that he currently faces, Judge (David) Cashman agreed with our assessment and denied bond.”

Four women, including one who was eight months pregnant, and one man were killed when two gunmen ambushed a cookout in the back yard of a home on Franklin Avenue, according to authorities. Three others were wounded.

Investigators said one shooter with a .40-caliber handgun approached from an alley and began shooting, while another with an AK-47 assault-style rifle fired at partygoers as they attempted to run into the house, where several children were.

More than 40 shell casings were removed from the scene by officers.

Officials identified those killed as Jerry Shelton, 35, Tina Shelton, 37, Brittany Powell, 27, Chanetta Powell, 25, and Shada Mahone, 26.%



Lamont Powell, one of the survivors and described by police as the shooters’ likely target, was also in court Thursday on unrelated charges in connection with a December incident involving his sister’s boyfriend.

While Lamont Powell declined to comment outside court, his attorney spoke about his condition.

“Medically, he's not doing too well. He's walking, obviously, but he has tubes coming out of him. He has bullets lodged in him. (He was) shot five or six times, so (he’s) still in shock,” Frank Walker, Lamont Powell’s defense attorney, said. "He's just focused on getting better."

In addition to Thomas, three other people identified as Cheron Shelton, Justin Gomez and Ashley Smith were brought to police headquarters Wednesday to be questioned in connection with the shooting.

All four are facing charges in connection with the incident involving guns and drugs from more than three years ago.

According to the criminal complaint obtained Wednesday by Channel 11 News, investigators served active warrants on Cheron Shelton and Gomez at an apartment on Hill Avenue in Wilkinsburg in February 2013.

Smith rented the apartment, and the other three were there at the time of the bust.

Inside the apartment, investigators found heroin, handguns and an assault rifle, according to the complaint. It was later determined that two of the weapons were stolen.

Authorities questioned Cheron Shelton about the mass shooting once before on March 25.

“My understanding is the investigators were looking at old charges of people involved in crimes in and around that area. Mr. Thomas' name came up. They noticed the case in 2013 had not been disposed of,” Thomas’ attorney Casey White told Channel 11 News.

White said he doesn’t believe Thomas had anything to do with the mass shooting.

“It's tough for anybody involved, but it is tough for the victims who were gunned down. It's a tough situation as a whole, but Mr. Thomas is not responsible,” he said.

No charges have been filed in the Wilkinsburg shooting.