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Gainey visits Brighton Heights church after Pittsburgh Police arrest 2 in funeral shooting

Jillian Forstadt
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey speaks with a small group gathered inside Destiny of Faith Church in Brighton Heights on Saturday. Six people were hospitalized after gunfire erupted at the church during a funeral for another homicide victim on Oct. 28, 2022.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey spoke with members of the Brighton Heights community on Saturday at the Destiny of Faith Church's fall festival, one day after a shooting at the church during a funeral for another homicide victim.

"We need the community to be honest about how many guns they have on the street," Gainey said to a small group gathered in the church cafeteria. One day earlier, five people were shot and a sixth was hurt while trying to escape during a funeral shooting at the church, located at 3737 Brighton Road.

One person said the violence that occurred this month reminded them of the surge of homicides that plagued the city in the early 1990s.

"The only thing difference between then and now is that ain't gang-related," Gainey responded. "This is anger."

According to the Rev. Dr. Brenda Gregg, senior pastor of Destiny of Faith, the church is working with the city to have supportive services available in the church throughout the next week.

"We are thankful no gunshots occurred inside the sanctuary and thank our church officers for securing the church to prevent anyone from entering that may have caused further harm," Gregg said in a statement Saturday.

"Even during this very difficult time, the Destiny of Faith Church will remain a beacon in our community and a place for refuge," she continued.

The annual Harvest Festival was one avenue of refuge, as well as a way to keep kids off the street and away from violence, volunteers said Saturday.

"Regardless of what happened yesterday, the church is still a safe place for kids," said Evelyn Hines.

In a statement on Twitter Sunday, Gainey again called on the community and others — nonprofit organizations, government agencies and police — for their help to curb the flow of guns and make Pittsburgh a safe city.

"Our children need all our help — and so do our moms, dads and grandparents," the mayor said. "We need everyone to come together to break the cycle of generational harms and trauma."

Police recover gun after river search

Also on Sunday morning, Pittsburgh Police said the city's River Rescue unit recovered a gun from the Ohio River that matches the description of a firearm thrown from the McKees Rocks Bridge into the river by Hezekiah Nixon, one of two people arrested and charged with attempted homicide and other offenses in the shooting.

Police did not identify the type of firearm but said it had been reported stolen in Shaler Township and still had a bullet in its chamber when divers recovered it.

Nixon, 16, of the North Side, and Shawn Davis, 19, of McKees Rocks, were arraigned Saturday on charges of criminal attempt-homicide, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, aggravated cruelty to an animal and firearms offenses. Davis also is charged with two counts of conspiracy. Nixon is charged as an adult.

Both are being held without bond in the Allegheny County Jail. Their preliminary hearings are scheduled for Nov. 18. Police did not say if they are seeking additional suspects.

According to a police affidavit filed by Pittsburgh Police detective Gabriel Lambright, surveillance video from the area around the church showed two males walking toward the church from Benton Avenue. At approximately 12:03 p.m., one of them pulled a firearm with an extended magazine from his coat and began to fire multiple shots toward the front of the church.

The other male in the video shot at a man standing on the sidewalk in front of the church, according to the affidavit. Both of the men with guns then ran away toward Benton Avenue.

According to the affidavit, one victim was shot in the chest. Four others were shot in their arms and legs, and a sixth was transported to UPMC Children's Hospital for injuries after falling while attempting to escape the shooting.

Five of the victims were treated at Allegheny General Hospital. All were in stable condition Friday.

A horse used to pull the carriage holding the casket was also struck by multiple bullet fragments while standing outside the church. More than 20 shell casings were recovered from the scene, police said.

The arrests came after police detained Davis and Nixon Friday night on the McKees Rocks Bridge, which links the North Side to McKees Rocks and is less than two miles from the church.

Detectives located the vehicle used by Davis through private surveillance footage, according to the affidavit. They checked the car's registration plate to identify Davis as the owner.

Detectives later traveled to the address in McKees Rocks with which Davis registered the vehicle. Around 5:40 p.m. Friday, Davis and Nixon left that property in Davis' car and drove to the McKees Rocks Bridge, where police stopped the car.

When he got out of the car. Nixon ran away toward McKees Rocks and threw a firearm with an extended magazine over the bridge and into the river, police said.

Davis also dropped a .40 caliber pistol onto the road, and police arrested both males, according to the affidavit. Both of them wore clothing that matched descriptions of the males shown in the surveillance video of the shooting, police said.

When they searched Davis's home, police found three magazines for firearms, although he is ineligible to obtain a firearm license due to an aggravated assault conviction in 2020. Nixon, as a juvenile, is ineligible to carry a firearm as well.

A series of shootings

The funeral service Friday was underway at the church for 20-year-old John Hornezes, who was one of three people killed on Saturday, Oct. 15 in a shooting at the Sunoco gas station on Cedar Avenue in Deutschtown.

Police identified two other women killed in that shooting as innocent victims and said earlier this week that Hornezes was the likely target. No arrests have been made in that shooting.

Both investigations are ongoing, as is an investigation of another incident late Thursday in which two women and a man were shot at an apartment building on Rhine Place in the Spring Hill neighborhood of the North Side, about 12 hours before Hornezes' funeral.

The man, who was shot in the neck, was listed in critical condition after that shooting. The women, who were shot in the arm and leg, were in stable condition.

Updated: October 30, 2022 at 3:48 PM EDT
This story has been updated to include new comments from Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey.
Updated: October 30, 2022 at 11:50 AM EDT
This story was updated to reflect that Pittsburgh Police recovered a gun from the Ohio River that matches the description of a firearm used in the shooting at Destiny of Faith Church.
Updated: October 29, 2022 at 1:02 PM EDT
This story has been updated to include additional information about criminal charges.
Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Cindi Lash joined Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting in 2021 from Missouri Lawyers Media, a subsidiary of BridgeTower Media, where she began her tenure as editor and regional editor in 2018. Before joining BridgeTower, she served as editor-in-chief at Pittsburgh Magazine for four years, and as regional editor of local news startup She previously spent 20 years as a reporter and editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.