Wilkinsburg mass shooting survivor on suspects' arrests: ‘I don't want to see them die'

WILKINSBURG, Pa. — One of the men who survived March’s mass shooting in Wilkinsburg that left six dead, including an unborn child, spoke to Channel 11 News Thursday following the announcement of two suspects facing charges for the murders.

“I was scared. I heard that big assault rifle. I said, ‘Oh, I don’t want to get shot with that.’ That thing was loud,” John Ellis said as he recounted the moment two gunmen opened fire on him and his family and friends.

Ellis, 48, is now bedridden because of his injuries, and said it’s been hard on him since he was always on the move before being shot.

“I wasn't supposed to get shot. I was over there having a good time, having a couple drinks eating,” he said.

Ellis said his neighbors were having a cookout the night of the shooting, March 9. He told Channel 11 News that he was hit with two bullets and played dead as bodies fell all around him. He’s now paralyzed from the waist down.

“They are really shooting. They are really trying to kill someone. That's when I woke up in the hospital, and they said Brittany and all of them were dead,” Ellis said.%



Ellis said he’s glad to finally see an arrest and the beginning of justice for those killed.

“I hope ya'll learn from this lesson. Ya'll killed people. Ya'll shot innocent people,” he said.

Ellis said while he wants justice for the victims and their families, he doesn’t want anyone else to die, including the alleged gunmen, Cheron Shelton, 29, and Robert Thomas, 27.

Both men have been charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, criminal conspiracy and attempted homicide.

“I don’t want to see them die. I don’t want to see the death penalty. People died. They killed people, but I don’t want to see nobody die,” Ellis said.

While there’s some relief, those living in Wilkinsburg said there’s still too much violence in the community for residents to feel safer after Shelton and Thomas’ arrests.

“Hopefully (there won’t be) retaliation from them getting arrested,” resident Jim Simeome said.

The community held a series of meetings after the March shooting to address the culture of violence in Wilkinsburg.

“I think we got to get together and we got to talk about the direction of crime that's been going on in that community for some time and some things that could be done,” Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said.

Zappala said Thursday that he believes Wilkinsburg can be improved much like Lawrenceville and the Strip District have been.

“We can do anything as a community. We can make things happen,” he said.

Zappala also noted that authorities have seen increased violence in other East Hills neighborhoods, such as Verona and Monroeville, and that violence is something police chiefs and county officials have been discussing and will continue to focus on this summer.