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Police Continue Investigating Deadly July 4th Shooting In Pittsfield

Updated at 7:30 P.M. July 6, 2015: The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office says the preliminary cause of death of 25-year-old Ronald Pinel is a gunshot wound to the chest. Associate Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth Dr. Andrew Sexton conducted the autopsy at the Holyoke Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

A 20-year-old man remains in critical condition at Baystate Medical Center Springfield, according to the DA’s office. A 20-year-old woman is in stable condition at Berkshire Medical Center, while a 25-year-old man and a 26-year-old man have been released from the Pittsfield hospital. 

One person is dead and multiple people are injured after a shooting in Pittsfield on July 4th. Meanwhile, police were investigating another shooting scene about a block away Sunday afternoon.The Berkshire County District Attorney’s office says 25-year-old Ronald Pinel was pronounced dead at Berkshire Medical Center following a shooting that injured several others. An autopsy to determine the exact cause of death was scheduled for late Monday morning or early afternoon.

Speaking Sunday morning, Pittsfield Police Sgt. Matthew Hill said the shooting happened in a vacant lot near 202 Dewey Avenue around 11:30 Saturday night.

“One is deceased,” Hill said around 10:15 a.m. Sunday.  “Two are currently in intensive care. One party was treated and released. One party is being treated for non life threatening injuries and that party was arrested on unrelated matters.”

The DA’s office says two other men were taken to Berkshire Medical Center. A 25-year-old remains at the Pittsfield hospital while a 20-year-old man was taken to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

The DA’s office says two other people, a 20-year-old female and a 26-year-old man, checked into Berkshire Medical Center to be treated for injuries which allegedly occurred as a result of the shooting.  

Sgt. Hill says there were multiple guns and multiple shooters.

“The investigation is ongoing,” Hill said Sunday. “At this time it’s not believed that there is a shooter out amongst the city. There is no need currently for the public to be alarmed or concerned.”

On Sunday afternoon, Pittsfield Police closed off Robbins Avenue about a block from the shooting scene on Dewey Avenue. With Massachusetts State Police on site, Pittsfield Police Cpt. Patrick Barry said police were unsure if the two scenes are related.

Members of Price Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church on Linden Street park their cars in the lot where the victims were found. The church does not own the property.  Reverend Margaret Lawson is in her third week with Price Memorial, but has been involved with area churches for more than a decade.

“I don’t believe by talking to the members that it is a shock to this community because it is my understanding and don’t quote me on it per say, but things like this are beginning to happening in this neighborhood and several neighborhoods around here,” said Lawson.

“People are just getting openly blatant about hatred, drugs, alcohol and everything is flowing so freely,” Lawson said. “You know what that does to people – it changes their whole attitude. It’s seems like they’re on a high where their tempers can be easily flared or their emotions are running high and if you have the wrong frame of mind and if you do carry a weapon before you know you have used that and it’s because of something else that’s going on in your head.”

In 2013 Pittsfield was awarded a Shannon Grant, a state initiative focused on preventing youth and gang violence. Since then the city has hired a grant coordinator and created a community connection program. When applying for the grant, city leadership cited a sharp increase in violent gang activity among members of the Bloods, Crips, Latin Kings and other groups resulting in murders, home invasions and weapon-related crimes. The topic of youth and gang violence in Pittsfield was thrust into the media spotlight last August after a gang-related shooting involving two teenagers. A series of public meetings drawing hundreds followed including the creation of a mentoring program for troubled youths.

Mayor Dan Bianchi says he met with area law enforcement and the city council president Monday in the wake of Saturday night’s shooting. Bianchi is encouraging city residents to join an existing neighborhood watch program or create a new one.

Despite the recent shooting, Bianchi says city and law enforcement outreach programs are working.

“The community has to take ownership of certain things,” Bianchi said. “The neighborhood watch programs have been very effective in engaging many more citizens than had been in the past. And that’s a good thing.”

The district attorney’s office would not comment on whether Saturday’s shooting was gang-related. Pittsfield Police say they are increasing patrols where the shooting happened.

Last month a 21-year-old believed to have white supremacist beliefs killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Since then, fires at black churches across the south have raised questions of racially motivated or retaliatory actions. Pittsfield Police Sgt. Hill says there is nothing to indicate the Pittsfield shooting is race-related. Reverend Lawson says she spoke with police who assured her it was safe to hold Sunday services for which roughly 40 of 115 members turned out. She says she doesn’t believe the shooting had anything to do with race or her church.

“That’s why we have the church doors open,” Lawson said. “This is our city of refuge.”

Pittsfield Police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call (413) 448-9700.

Jim is WAMC’s Associate News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
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