Two Pennsylvania police officers could be facing disciplinary action after failing to show up at a funeral they were assigned to in Pittsburgh and leaving a grieving family unprotected. Gunmen showed up outside the church during the service and opened fire wounding five people — none fatally — leaving many attendees asking, “where was the security?”
The family requested a police patrol to guard the Brighton Heights funeral for John James Hornezes Jr., 20, on Friday, Oct. 28.
Hornezes was killed in a shootout near a Sunoco gas station on Cedar Avenue, two weeks prior, on Oct. 15. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that police say Hornezes and two accomplices were standing near the gas station and shooting at two other men in an SUV as it drove past a bus stop.
Video captures two women at the bus stop falling as the gunfire directed at the SUV hit them. Those women did not survive their wounds, and as the men in the SUV returned fire Hornezes was fatally wounded and one of his two companions also was hit in the leg by a non-fatal shot.
Police characterize the incident as there was a “dispute going on” that ended in gunplay.
One alleged shooter from the SUV, 19-year-old Charron Troutman, has been charged with homicide in Hornezes’ death, and 21-year-old Hines, the man authorities say was wounded while shooting alongside Hornezes, faces homicide charges in the deaths of Betty Jean Averytt and Jacquelyn Mehalic, the women killed at the bus stop.
Hornezes’ loved ones feared something might happen during his homegoing. Despite the confirmation that officers would provide security and protection, no one showed up to the service at Destiny of Faith Church located at the 3700 block of Brighton Road.
Local station WPIX reports that it was told by sources in law enforcement that the two officers went to a nearby funeral home instead of the church and left when they found no activity on the day of the funeral.
Video depicts a burst of five shots that disrupted the service about an hour and 20 minutes into the service, followed by another volley seconds later of at least 15 more that sent people running for cover.
The Pittsburg Police Department Major Crimes Commander Richard Ford said to CBS News, “We look at each situation differently. If there’s a request and it falls through the cracks, that’s something that has to immediately be looked at.”
Ford added, “What we are obviously working on is making sure we have the right people, that we have checks and balances.”
Citizen Police Review Board Executive Director Beth Pittinger believes that is not enough. She says whether a request was made or not, the nature of his death should have prompted officers to circle the funeral.
“Simply because of the assessment of intergroup tensions which is critically important to keep everyone safe,” she said.
The board is bringing up issues with the PPD, pointing at a failure in the system that left a summer-time youth football game without requested (and approved) police coverage.
The two officers, according to Penn Live, have been suspended. Details on their suspension have been sparse. It is also unknown if any supervisors on duty are being held accountable for the cops not showing up. A shooting happened at that gathering also.
This comes at a time when two cops and a supervisor were terminated for falsifying their time cards.
Pittinger says, “I’m sure that they’re just indicators. It’s probably happening in other circumstances.”
Adding, “There’s no excuse for it and I would hope the bureau is assessing internally the capacity of their supervisory staff.”
Now, the CPRB opened an inquiry into the supervision of the Pittsburgh police.
Pittsburgh’s mayor, Ed Gainey has not commented on the blunder, saying, “When the time is right and the investigation is done, I’ll definitely speak on it.”
KSRO states two teenagers were taken into custody late Friday night and were charged with aggravated assault and attempted homicide.
Law enforcement used surveillance footage from different streets in Brighton Heights to locate the alleged shooters, tracking them step-by-step to their homes. Shawn Davis, 19, and Hezekah Nixon, 16, were found in McKees Rocks and arrested on the McKees Rocks Bridge. The two got stuck in traffic and could not evade police.