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Man accused in Wilkinsburg mass shooting alleges police misconduct in lawsuit

Mark Nootbaar
90.5 WESA

A man is suing Allegheny County and individual Pittsburgh and county police officers for allegedly violating his civil rights during their investigation of a 2016 Wilkinsburg shooting. Robert Thomas was accused of killing six people at a barbecue, but a judge dismissed the charges on the first day of the death penalty trial due to lack of evidence.

Cheron Shelton was also accused in the shooting and was found not guilty in February 2020.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania, claims that law enforcement used “numerous constitutionally violative tactics” to arrest Thomas.

“Allegheny County Police . . . Homicide Detectives and Allegheny County prosecutors engaged in multiple acts of misconduct to cobble together a case by any means necessary,” the lawsuit said.

The suit said police “relied solely on the fabricated information provided by confidential informants and ignored exclusionary evidence in their possession.”

Thomas is represented by attorneys Paul Jubas and Max Petrunya. Jubas said that while Thomas was held in Allegheny County Jail, investigators purposefully put Thomas in the same pod as a “prolific informant,” who received five confessions from homicide suspects dating back to 2014.

The lawsuit claims police withheld information from Thomas’s attorneys which indicated that Thomas was not a part of the shooting.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

County and city officials said they do not comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at