Pittsfield Leaders Face Second Deadly Shooting In A Month
Update: Eighteen-year-old Thomas Lee Newman Jr. of Pittsfield pleaded not guilty to murder and armed assault with intent to commit murder in Central Berkshire District Court Monday afternoon. He is being held at the Berkshire County House of Correction without bail. Newman Jr. agreed to voluntarily return to Massachusetts to face the charges, according to the Berkshire District Attorney’s office. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Aug. 10.
Pittsfield authorities are facing the second deadly shooting in less than a month. Meanwhile, the city’s gang and youth violence prevention coordinator is leaving his post to take over a community coalition elsewhere in the county.Flowers, candles and baseball caps lie at the doorstep of Chewy’s Barber Shop on Tyler Street in Pittsfield marking the site of the July 31st deadly shooting. Eighteen-year-old Keenan Pellot Jr. died Friday shortly after arriving at Berkshire Medical Center a few blocks away. A 17-year-old man is in guarded condition, but is expected to survive, according to the Berkshire District Attorney’s office. Mayor Dan Bianchi says two homicides in one month is unfortunate, adding that the city hadn’t seen a murder in four years before July.
“This recent one with an 18-year-old losing his – it appears to be in talking to the family, it was two young men had a personal grudge and had known each other for a long, long time,” Bianchi said. “But having said all that, somebody had a gun.”
On Sunday, authorities arrested Thomas Lee Newman Jr. of Pittsfield about 130 miles away in Utica, NY. The 18-year-old was expected to be in court Monday to face a charge of being a fugitive from justice. Berkshire County law enforcement will seek his rendition to Pittsfield where he will be charged with murder and armed assault with intent to commit murder, according to the Berkshire DA’s office.
The Tyler Street shooting follows a community rally and calls for action after a deadly July 4th shooting on Pittsfield’s West Side. Twenty-five-year-old Ronald Pinel was killed and four others ranging in age from 20 to 26 were injured in a pair of shootings that night. David Capeless is Berkshire County District Attorney.
“Obviously it’s clear that there are people who have guns and they’re willing to use them,” Capeless said. “I think unfortunately we’ve had two incidents within a short period of time and that obviously raises a lot of concern. We’ve been concerned about this kind of situation erupting for some time now and for the public to be concerned that’s very reasonable.”
Authorities have not released information regarding arrests or leads in the July 4th shooting. On July 22nd, Capeless said investigators, despite interviewing more than 50 people, are stymied by a lack of cooperation from people authorities believe may know who was involved and have information about motives. Capeless says law enforcement has gotten some additional cooperation since the public plea, but not what is needed.
“On the other hand, what occurred over this weekend, we have gotten a good deal of cooperation from people, which is why we’ve been able to resolve this and make an arrest as quickly as we have,” said Capeless.
Capeless says there are many theories as to why people don’t talk to law enforcement if they know something.
“Some talk about fear of retaliation, some of it, perhaps, maybe simply a matter of they don’t want to assist the police,” Capeless said. “Sometimes there are concerns on that of law enforcement that people want to take matters into their own hands rather than turn it over to the criminal justice system.”
Capeless says his office has not made a final determination on whether the two July shootings are connected. He would not comment on whether either shooting was gang-related.
Earlier on July 31st, it was announced that Pittsfield’s gang and youth violence prevention coordinator will leave to become executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition starting in September. Adam Hinds was hired in 2014 to coordinate the city’s Shannon Grant program. Hinds plans to remain active with the Pittsfield Community Connection, a youth outreach and mentorship initiative, he helped launch.
“There’s a large range of risk factors that are piling up against some of our kids,” Hinds said. “In a way you can call it a crisis of youth these days. It speaks to the fact that we really need to redouble efforts to get to these kids before they make a decision like this to settle differences with a gun.”
Hinds says Pittsfield is working with the state to find additional funding for job, education and counseling support for young people who’ve already been involved in criminal activity.
Mayor Bianchi says Hinds’ new position may allow the community connection program to expand. He says the city plans to begin a search for a new Shannon Grant coordinator.