Will the circle be unbroken?

As police arrested one suspect and sought another in the shooting death Monday of a 12-year-old Perry South girl, authorities announced an intensified effort to combat a sharp upswing in gang violence.

Anthony “Tone Bone” Wilson, 30, was taken into custody without incident at his North Side home yesterday at 12:30 a.m. The other suspect, Michael “Meese” Gist, 15, of the North Side, remained at large. Detectives had hoped to take him into custody at McNaugher Middle School, where he is a student, but he didn’t show for classes.

Chief Harper said the suspects are members of the North Charles Street Crips, a gang violently feuding with the Tre 8’s gang from Perrysville. The house was shot at, Chief Harper said, in retaliation for some unnamed offense. A male relative of the victims who also was inside is believed to have been the target, he said.

“All it takes is for somebody to look at somebody the wrong way to ignite this kind of activity,” Assistant Chief Bryant said. “If you’re from Charles Street area you don’t come up to the Perrysville Area.”

A 15-year-old arrested for the murder of a smart, innocent 12-year-old girl after pumping 40 bullets into her house with an assault rifle. A 15-year-old middle-schooler armed to the teeth, riding the streets with a 30-year-old gang member, who if I had my way would fry tomorrow (me love killing, grrr).

What can you even say or write or think about this that would ever make it make one ounce of sense?  And besides, how can you speak, write or even think over the deafening, angry roar of the internal screaming that rises inside of you?

There’s nowhere to begin.  There’s no beginning point or ending point to grasp onto — to put into words the absolute futility of this violence.  There’s just a big circle that keeps spinning around and around, and how can any of us jump in and snap it open so that we can walk the line to the end?

We just can’t.

And that sense of hopelessness really really sucks.


  1. Scottie
    January 31, 2008 11:03 am

    I saw this in the PG this a.m. and shook my head. I think it’s gone beyond anger and rage now…it’s just hard to fathom an environment where this is acceptable. Where are these “kids” parents? A 15 year old with a gun, thinks he’s a man, but he’s not even human anymore. Depressing.

    Oh, and the 30y.o. should definitely be squished like a pigeon under a PAT bus. What a f’ing monster!

  2. Aeran
    January 31, 2008 11:07 am

    The second-tier tragedy here (after the girl’s death) is the story of this 15-year-old kid. His life is just as over as hers – I hear they plan to try him as an adult.

  3. NoSide15212
    January 31, 2008 11:19 am

    A very good question, but nearly rhetorical at this point. And an unintended reference to an amazing gospel song (Staple Singers) about a funeral…how fitting.

    “Well I followed close behind her,
    Tried to hold up and be brave,
    But I could not hide my sorrow
    When they laid her in the grave

    Will the circle be unbroken?
    By and by Lord, by and by,
    There’s a better home a-waitin’
    In the sky Lord, in the sky.”

    “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”
    –A.P. Carter

  4. Eileen
    January 31, 2008 11:34 am

    It certainly makes us angry, as it should. How about the police who deal with this day in and day out?
    I tend to think they have to feel as hopeless as the good people who live there.

  5. curtO.
    January 31, 2008 11:48 am

    Where was the kids dad? Don’t know about during the shooting…but he sure was there to help hide his kid from the police in a hotel in South Greensburg. So daddy is now arrested too for hindering apprehension when they found a note on him with the hotel name and a phone number where his kid was.

    /sarcasm/ Now that’s good parenting. /sarcasm over/


  6. M. Silenus
    January 31, 2008 11:52 am

    If there is any hope it’s that members of the community quickly identified the perps to police. Maybe we are finally seeing the end of the incredibly self-destructive No Snitchin’ mentality.

  7. concerned
    January 31, 2008 11:58 am

    I have been reading up lately on child soldiers and how, in many other countries, governments recruit children, brainwash them with propaganda and drugs, and turn them into killing machines for the war effort. Its a shame. What is even more a shame is that we, in the US, are not immune to it. No – our government is making children be soldiers, but our streets are. Will be circle ever snap? How about – what can we do to snap it?

  8. chrys
    January 31, 2008 12:04 pm

    When I heard this on the news that a 15 yr old was involved, I thought I heard wrong. It’s just sad. Why is a 15 yr old hanging around a 30 yr old? Why is a 15 yr old armed? Why is the 30 yr old armed? What is with the rise in gang related violence in Pgh? All I can say is I am sad for all involved. A mother was shot and wounded and lost her baby. I hope this gets resolved as quickly as possible so that the healing for the family and community can begin.


  9. Joe Magarac
    January 31, 2008 12:07 pm

    Things often look bad for the black community in Pittsburgh, and perhaps never more so than right now. But I don’t think they are ever hopeless. The Irish used to play the role that too many blacks play now: the Irish migrated here in the 1840s with no skills except potato harvesting (compare to blacks who moved to Pgh. in the 1920s-1950s with no skills except sharecropping); the Irish were for many years arrested and jailed much more often than members of other ethnic groups (hence “paddy wagon”); the Irish were for many years involved in gangs and gang wars over turf (see “Gangs of New York”).

    Who or what helped break the cycle? Archbishop “Dagger John” Hughes of New York City and the Catholic Church, which made Irish-Americans into devout Catholics and changed their cultural expectations accordingly. If the black community had more leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. (who for all his personal failings did much to inspire people to be better) and fewer like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (who encourage blacks to see themselves as victims), it might be able to make a similar change.

    I’m sure you’ll join me in praying for it.


  10. John
    January 31, 2008 12:09 pm

    This is sad beyond words. When I read the article, the quotes from the little girl’s aunt are what struck me the most, how she wasn’t even angry – she was just too sad to be angry. When will it end?

  11. mis
    January 31, 2008 12:10 pm

    It is just all so sad.
    I read this story yesterday followed by the one where the 10 year old boy was trying to poison his family because his brother beat him up and put him in a dog cage with feces and left him there. What is wrong with people?
    Pray for them all.

  12. John
    January 31, 2008 12:10 pm

    Well said, Joe.

  13. JP
    January 31, 2008 12:28 pm

    so what are you saying Joszko? This would all go away if people just went to Church?

  14. efw_west
    January 31, 2008 1:07 pm

    it sure wouldn’t hurt.

  15. EddieSpaghetti
    January 31, 2008 1:55 pm

    If you haven’t watched Season 4 of the Wire yet, it is worth checking out. In 13 hours it will give you a better explanation of how a 15 year old kid ends up emptying rounds into a home than any other source.

    Seriously, the Wire (all seasons) does a better job of bringing light to how difficult it is to improve quality of life in a city than anything I’ve ever come across.

  16. Kelli
    January 31, 2008 2:26 pm

    See, I took what Joe said to be that world would be a better place if we all followed moral leaders, not necessarily religious leaders.

    Maybe I misunderstood, but that is what I got from the comparison of MLK and the “Rev.s” (All were “Reverends” but only one of them was a true moral leader.)

  17. Bram R
    January 31, 2008 2:32 pm

    I don’t know what to say, but I’ll say it. All I can think is, to the people who fixate on “where were the parents?” and “how were these children raised?”, the thing is: in this situation, I don’t know. In many situations, where is the parent? Not there. Or not good. Lots and lots of children grow up with no one who cares for them, people who try to care for them but do it poorly, people who try to care for them but fail, or life simply gets in the way. Yes I wish that some “culture” or another would just rise up and take control, but that’s not happening. Fact of the matter is, there are always going to be children growing up on their own. That’s why as I see it, these are “our” children too. When the hell are we going to do something about them?

  18. Joe Magarac
    January 31, 2008 2:49 pm

    JP (#13) asked if I was suggesting (at #9) that crimes like the Jolesa Barber murder would not happen if more blacks went to church. The answer is: yes and no. The Dagger John story I linked to (a better one is here: http://www.city-journal.org/html/7_2_a2.html) said that Archbishop Hughes was able to change the culture of New York City’s underclass Irish population not just by getting them to attend religious services, but also by using those services to encourage better behavior. He emphasized devotion to Mary to encourage Irish women to live chaste lives (they’d been notorious for having kids out of wedlock) and emphasized confession to encourage all Irishmen and women to admit that they had the power to change their lives (they’d been blaming institutional racism for sticking them in the slums, which was true but wouldn’t help them get out).

    I’m not black, so I can’t speak from experience, but my impression is that: a) relatively few black men attend church; and b) while lots of black women attend church, the services they attend often encourage people to praise God emotionally through music and do not encourage a calm and sober approach to life. (If I am wrong, I hope someone will correct me). A black Dagger John would therefore find lots to work on, both in getting more black men to attend church and in getting the ministers to focus more on personal improvement and less on praise music. In short, going to church is good, but having the church encourage personal responsibility is better.

    As for Kelli (#16), I am afraid that I must disappoint you. I am an ardent Catholic who believes that religion is essential to living a moral life. Following a moral leader is not enough; following a moral leader within a religious framework is vital. Or so it seems to me.

  19. R.I.P. MacYapper
    January 31, 2008 2:53 pm

    Northside pussies shootin at the wrong houses coward punks ain’t got nothing on them hardcore Homewood gangbangers who’d stab you in the neck at KFC and grin while watching you gurgle and bleed to death.

    Oh hey, where are all the chicken-shit police? District Attorney? Whatever happened to gang prosecution under the RICO act? If you know the gangs are organized, and you know the members of the organizations…

    That’s right, we’re too busy spending bank on prosecuting Cyril B. Hitler Wecht for making his employees run errands {woo, shudder} and selling t-shirts out the back door {OMG, what horrendous crimes against humanity!}

    What’s fucking wrong with this city Reason #2.

  20. LMax
    January 31, 2008 3:20 pm

    …at least we’re all safe at the Steeler games, since apparently they can’t afford to go.

    In all seriousness, though, this is very sad and it does make me start to feel hopeless.

    Also, in my opinion, being in church isn’t enough. You’ve got to learn it/believe it/live it before it makes a difference.

    Very, very, very sad for everyone involved.

  21. Dan (Not Onarato)
    January 31, 2008 3:33 pm

    Where are the parents and how were they raised are going to be brought up from now until forever….there is not a answer that will suffice for everyone…

    Basic common sense tells you that its wrong on so many levels to just start blasting away with an assault rifle at a house…Golden Rule #1

    “Do you want to be shot at”
    “Then why shoot at someone else?”


    Why do people have kids that arent able to take care of them? Poor education? Additional money on their welfare check?

    Be a leader…not a victim

  22. Ed Heath
    January 31, 2008 3:49 pm

    I wonder if the solutions needed for Iraq are the ones needed here too. In the short term, it seems like there needs to be enough of a police presence to deter crime. In the long term the schools need to be improved while simultaneously government needs to work with some private industry partners to get decent jobs for the neighborhood. If you give residents a chance to have something worth having, they will begin to work with police and the government to make the neighborhood safe, to keep that thing worth having.

    Over on the Burgh Report there are several comments blaming the residents for this crime, but that is a very narrow perspective, in my opinion. When people talk about a cycle of poverty, it means generations of people who have learned that no one wants to hire, no one wants to educate their children, but everyone will judge them and find them wanting, for every crime that occurs, for accepting welfare if it is offered, for failing to get a job, for wanting to get out of their neighborhood. No wonder the fifteen year olds have already learned that a life of crime is a better bet for them. Someone mentioned child soldiers (in Africa mostly, I believe), and I think the comparison is very apt.

  23. NoSide15212
    January 31, 2008 4:50 pm

    Education is there. Jobs are there. Welfare is there, WIC is there, subsidized housing is there, Medicaid is there. Grants and scholarships are there for those that make it through high school. Training programs are there. Daycare is in the schools for students with children. Affirmative action and EOE are there for jobs. The fact is, the state is doing everything it can to raise the child without actually going into the house and physically doing it, though if abuse allegations arise, they do that too. Opportunity is there for people who want to take advantage of it. The system is not perfect, but for Heaven’s sake, if you take advantage of all that is offered, however imperfect, you can succeed. Governments and taxpayers have built entitlement programs on top of entitlement programs such that entitlement has become the family business, passed on from generation to generation. There is precious little accountability in these programs and we now have 4 generations of failure, violence, poverty, and urban misery to prove it. The most important factor in all of this -the one that trumps every other factor listed here- is a strong, involved, loving parent guiding these children. Someone asked in an earlier post what a 15 year-old was doing riding around gangbanging with a 30 year-old; that’s almost the right question. The right question is what the hell is a 30 year-old doing driving around with a 15 year-old gangbanging? The child doesn’t know any better than what he or she is taught by adults; that is instructive when pondering the original question raised by this post: will the circle be unbroken? With 30 year-olds like this jackass to mentor the next generation it leaves little doubt.

  24. KGC
    January 31, 2008 5:52 pm

    Just damn.

    There is a growing serious problem within certain communities/groups that is unfathomable to us WASPs in the ‘burbs. A 15-yo gangbanger? An innocent 12-yo victim? A father hiding a wanted killer? Another 15-yo victim shot at KFC? Insanity.

    I’m not even sure an expanded police presence can slow, much less stop, the violence. But… why not try? Have a full-blown all out press conference proclaiming such and, then.. do it! Hard. Often. Stop and search ANYONE suspicious.. ANYONE.

    MacYapper.. I find your language offensive. Your points would be more effective without the vulgarity. You’re not funny, nor are you cute. Childish, at best.

  25. Still A Fan
    January 31, 2008 5:55 pm

    if there is one 15 year old in the entire community that does well in school and would never pick up a gun, then it’s possible for anyone else to do the same. its all about choices and i am NOT in the corner of the folks eho are going to turn this KILLER into a victim. if he knew it was wrong when he pulled the trigger and understood the consequences (which i guarantee you 100% that he did) then he deserves to be tried like an adult to the fullest extent of the law. i’m all for the programs that are in place like the other astute poster observed…. you cant ask the government or the community to raise the kid – they can only take it so far. is it sad? hell yeah, but at the end of the day – he knew what he was doing was wrong, he prolly believes the hype that he is a victim himself and used that to rationalize his actions. i’m a firm believer in the death penalty. it’s sounds harsh, but i have a family as well and that’s one less person i’ll have to worry about spraying stray bullets into public places. not sure i can be any more clear on the subject than that. if you’re going to act like an animal, i’m going to treat you like one.

  26. Trish
    January 31, 2008 6:21 pm

    If you want to gain a better understanding as to why stuff like this happens, I highly recomment reading “Life At The Bottom” by Theodore Darymple. The safety nets that are put in place for people to save them from themselves has only resulted in total lack of personal responsibility. If you’re reading it you’d swear you were were reading about your average American ghetto, but it actually speaks of people living in British housing projects, almost 100% white. The best line: The worst thing that can happen to a child is to be born intelligent in the ghetto.

  27. NoSide15212
    January 31, 2008 6:33 pm

    Still A Fan…

    Agree for the most part, but putting his ass in the electric chair (however much he may deserve it) doesn’t stop the bullets from flying before he gets there. The point of the post was to break the circle.

    No doubt he knows right from wrong, particularly when the choice comes down a pistol barrel in the shape of a 9mm parabellum. Nonetheless, if his dope-dealing father, who was also arrested, is any indication, the kid had no one to guide his impulse control or push him toward the right course –it would seem quite the contrary. Kids will largely become the product of what they’re taught.

    Whether we like it or not, in most of these instances, the child is a killer AND a victim. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    To my point again, it seems that the government and taxpayers have done all they can to provide “opportunity,” in all of its forms, but at the end of the day, the biggest factor in determining a child’s future is the guidance he or she receives at home.

  28. City Girl
    January 31, 2008 7:12 pm

    The paper stated that 15 minutes before the shooting, there was a disturbance outside of the same house. The police were there for 8 minutes before they cleared the seen and the murder took place. The same house had been shot out a week earlier and it seemed that the older sister did not cooperate with police and tell them who did it! The mother should have never went in there with her young daughter! Throw everyone out of that section eight and sort out who all those people are. Did anyone have a job? the police should have been all over that street for the whole week, they knew of all the trouble. Just exactly where was every office at that time? How about stopping crime instead of respondind after the fact. I see alot of blame to go around!

  29. dilemmadilemma
    January 31, 2008 9:24 pm

    I’m glad you made a blog entry about this. This is the reality in many Pittsburgh neighborhoods that is often forgotten amongst the drink tax and sexiest football coach.

  30. Dan (Not Onarato)
    February 1, 2008 8:02 am

    I agree with NoSide….there are so many breaks out there that if they took advantage of even half of them and use common sense this kind of thing would no longer be a problem or at the very least be severely diminished.

    And as for the people that want to be sympathetic to this kind of action and blame the community and not the lack of common sense/parenting skill, I conmsider them to be part of the problem and not the solution.

  31. M. Silenus
    February 1, 2008 8:46 am

    I am mystified as to why it’s so hard for people to grasp the concept that a person can be both a victim and a perpetrator, and that the two are often closely related. Since a lot of us would like to think that everything comes down to personal choices, let’s think about the choices people make.

    1. If a parent chooses to beat the shit out a child on a regular basis, that child is much more likely to choose violence.

    2. If a cop chooses to be on the take, then a lot of criminals will go unpunished until something so blatant happens that nobody can ignore it anymore.

    3. If politicians choose to pass laws to make themselves LOOK like they are tough on crime rather than laws that reform a fundamentally broken prison system, convicts will come out of jail stronger, meaner, and smarter about just how far they can push the law than when they went in.

    4. If 911 dispatchers choose to be rude and abusive when citizens want to report gunfire anonymously (because if they give their name and addresses the cops will come right up to the door to get more information thereby tipping off every thug in the neighborhood as to who made the call)… fewer people will call 911.

    5. And yes, if some young African Americans choose to accuse other young African Americans of “acting white” when the latter group does well in school or uses standard English, etc. then fewer young African Americans will actively seek out the opportunities that really are available, or develop the so-called soft skills that will help them excel in the work place.

    6. If a parent, even a single working parent, chooses to engage his or her child constructively, and scrap for every opportunity available, that kid has a much better chance of making good choices even if the neighborhood is distressed.

    Yes, everyone is responsible for their own choices. But everyone’s choices affect everyone else to some degree and no one is in control of other people’s choices. I have much less sympathy for Ken Lay-style CEOs who bilk their shareholders and and employees than for gang members who shoot up their neighborhoods. There are people out there who have no excuse for their behavior, and most of them are NOT in poor urban communities.

  32. c
    February 1, 2008 12:30 pm

    This is not hopeless but a few important things need to happen – we need not be so hypocritical. We need to either stop buying illegal drugs or see to it that the drug laws are changed to reflect the majority consensus. Sneaking around by drug consumers – even for just or most importantly pot, has created this monster. This is a child who is
    most likely learning the family business or one who has been totally neglected due to a parent pre occupied with an addiction themselves.
    Wake up, do more that cyber blat. Get involved.

  33. Still A Fan
    February 1, 2008 4:32 pm

    here’s something to chew on………

    we know for a FACT, cold hard FACT that he is a criminal

    we have no idea if he’s a victim.

    i dont care if he is a victim and i dont care if that’s heartless. all i know is an innocent girl is dead and that animal pulled the trigger.

    the chair, give it to him.

  34. justretiredguy
    February 2, 2008 7:23 pm

    I just had a conversation yesterday with a lady who comes from that neighborhood and who still has family who live there.

    According to her, these are not organized gangs, crips and bloods like in LA. These are poser wannabe gangbangers who would probably wet their baggy pants if they had to deal with real “bangers”.

  35. a visual tinkle
    February 2, 2008 10:55 pm

    So I live not far from the shooting and know alot of people in the “hood”. One source told me that this 15 yr old shot a man about two years ago, a witness recanted and the “child” walked free. I think that there is half of our problem. When people are too afraid to speak out the terorrists win. We need to be able to protect those who are willing to stand up and do the right thing. It shouldn’t take an innocent child being killed for the tips to come in. What happened to watching out for one another?

  36. Matt H
    February 3, 2008 7:10 pm

    “4. If 911 dispatchers choose to be rude and abusive when citizens want to report gunfire anonymously (because if they give their name and addresses the cops will come right up to the door to get more information thereby tipping off every thug in the neighborhood as to who made the call)… fewer people will call 911.”

    Been there before!

    There have been countless times where me or my Mother have had less than quality service from the folks at the county 911 center.

  37. Matt H
    February 3, 2008 7:17 pm

    “Irish were for many years arrested and jailed much more often than members of other ethnic groups (hence “paddy wagon”)”

    Not 100% true. There were a lot of Irish police officers in those days so the term could have come from that as well.

  38. Hopefulmaiden
    February 4, 2008 8:36 am

    I live 1/2 mile from the shooting site. This is tearing me up — tearing us all up over here.

    I agree with whoever made the statements about a moral leader–yes, someone like Dr. King–who will inspire the BEST in us to stand up and pull each other into the reality of common sense and personal responsibility. Someone who will shine the light on who we are, who we have become.

    Meanwhile, we have Urban Impact, the Pittsburgh Project, and many, many unsung heroes in the Northside (can’t speak for other neighborhoods) getting up every morning and showing up for these children. Teaching them conviction, responsibility, dignity, pride in accomplishment. Children are responding. From everything I hear, Jolesa was one of the best and brightest.

    Pray for her family. For the neighborhoods. For the children.

  39. unsatisfied
    February 4, 2008 9:44 am

    for me, what this comes down to are the choices you make.

    some people — maybe this 15-year-old, too — would say they did not have a choice. that, in and of itself, is a choice, too.

    some might also say that this 15-year-old did not know that murder is wrong. I am willing to bet that there are other 15-year-olds in his same situation who do.

    I agree with a lot of what noside said above — everything is there. it’s a matter of choosing to take advantage of it or not.

  40. Jim
    February 4, 2008 10:39 am

    I agree with Joe Magarac. Going to church would help these kids. They could learn about the fifth commandment “Thou shalt not kill” at the very least. The secularists in our society are trying to remove God from society and it results in a moral relativism that’s harmful.

    It seems like these killings are happening every week in Pittsburgh. Then you see a group of people holding hands, singing, lighting candles and saying things like “this has got to stop” but nothing ever changes. It’s a very sad situation.

    The high illigitimacy rate in the black community contributes mightily to this situation. The young people have no guidance particularly in the value of education which is so important to success in life.

    I agree that blacks need a charismatic leader to inspire these young people to use their talents in gaining a better life. A guy like Bill Cosby gets hammered for telling it like it is when he should be listened to.

    God help us if this doesn’t stop.

  41. City Girl
    February 6, 2008 5:46 am

    Let’s see, charasmatic leaders, Mark Brentley, Twanda Carlisle, Tonya Paine, One Hill. How about monitoring the success rate for these people, especially those who get government money for these programs, from cradle to grave. Stop caring about white people and worry about the youth! It seems that the 15 year olds are gonners now? Be accountable for your existance! Let’s see some real results! Ruth Ann’s new darling is the apprenticship program with the wake up call and pick up service at the front door. Jeez! Education is here and it’s manditory. Make them get it or ride the parents hard!