Charges against 5 withdrawn in 2015 shooting at vigil

Charges were withdrawn against five men accused of shooting at a neighborhood vigil in Pittsburgh 4 1/2 years ago. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Charges were withdrawn against five men accused of shooting at a neighborhood vigil in Pittsburgh 4 1/2 years ago. (Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY)

Prosecutors in western Pennsylvania have withdrawn charges against five men charged in a shooting at a neighborhood vigil in Pittsburgh 4 1/2 years ago that wounded three people, two of them children.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the action by the Allegheny County district attorney’s office Friday came 10 days before jury selection was scheduled in the case. A prosecutor cited “the murder of a commonwealth witness, subsequent lack of cooperation of witness and other evidentiary issues.”

The September 2015 gunfire occurred at a vigil in the Homewood neighborhood to mark the two-year anniversary of a young man’s shooting death on a nearby street. Wounded were a 3-year-old, a 12-year-old and a 49-year-old woman. Several vehicles were also hit by gunfire.

Charges were withdrawn against three men alleged by police to have fired into the crowd that night as well as against a man accused of having been the getaway driver and a man accused of being the leader of a gang with which the group was associated and who was in prison at the time.

Charges remain against two men police have said weren’t present at the shooting. Two other co-defendants previously pleaded guilty, one to a firearms count that resulted in a 2 1/2 to five-year sentence, the other to reckless endangerment and conspiracy and who awaits sentencing March 9.

Last week, defense attorneys demanded information about a cooperating witness who also provided information about a 2016 ambush shooting in Wilkinsburg that killed five people and an unborn baby. Prosecutors elected not to call the witness in that case, and charges against one defendant were dismissed. The other was acquitted.

Two defense attorneys in the vigil shooting case said they were unaware who the murdered witness referred to by prosecutors may have been and questioned why they had no knowledge previously about such a person.

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