Rally to honor 10-year-old shooting victim brings out hundreds

April 2, 2014
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
At the conclusion of a vigil for Ta’Niyah Thomas, a 10-year-old who was shot and killed in her apartment Monday, community members hugged one another Wednesday in Washington. Before the vigil the group started a march at Shop ’n Save up to the front of Washington County Courthouse for a vigil with prayers and song. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Ta’Niyah Thomas’ father Curtis Thomas spoke at a vigil in Washington Wednesday encouraging everyone to stop the violence. Thomas also pleaded for someone to come forward with information about who shot and killed his ten-year-old daughter. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
More than 500 people gathered in front of the Washington County Courthouse Wednesday to come together as a community to grieve for Ta’Niyah Thomas, a ten-year-old, who was shot and killed Monday. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Members of Ta’Niyah Thomas’ cheerleading team grieve at the vigil Wednesday. Friends, family and community members turned out to come together as a community and call for action against violence. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Ta’Niyah Thomas’ uncle Ron Cox comforts Thomas’ mother Shantye Brown during the vigil for Thomas Wednesday. Around 500 people came out for a call to action against violence and to mourn the death of Thomas who was shot and killed Monday. Order a Print

The father of a 10-year-old Washington girl who was shot and killed in her apartment this week made a plea at a rally in her honor Wednesday for someone to come forward as a “snitch” and help city police find her killer.

“When are we going to step up as a community for our children?” Curtis Thomas of Washington said before more than 500 people at the rally that followed a stop-the-violence march to Washington County Courthouse.

“No child deserves to die like my child died,” Thomas said atop the courthouse stairs.

His daughter, Ta’Niyah Thomas, died of a gunshot wound to the head in Washington Hospital early Monday. She was shot while running to her mother after intruders broke into a building at 450 W. Chestnut St. and shot through the walls of her apartment about 3:50 a.m. Monday. The girl shared the apartment with her mother, Shantye Brown, and her mother’s boyfriend, Robert Lester.

City police Chief Chris Luppino said investigators were still questioning people about the shooting while the rally was taking place on Main Street, and that they hadn’t received much cooperation.

Luppino said police were tying to determine if the shooting was drug-related as Brown was recently arrested during a countywide drug sweep in February.

The two-block march to the courthouse from Shop ’n Save parking lot and rally were organized to support the girl’s family and make another plea to the community to assist police in the investigation, Washington Mayor Brenda Davis said.

The rally included a balloon release, candlelight vigil and performance by a local church choir.

“The city of Washington is reaching out to all of you. You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” Davis said. “Our city police department needs your cooperation.”

“The gang life crime and the brutality of the drug trade could care less about who it affects,” Davis said.

Many tears were shed during the speeches, and many of them streamed down the cheeks of members of a cheerleading squad of which Ta’Niyah was a member.

“Don’t cry, baby girl. She loved everyone,” Curtis Thomas said to one of the cheerleaders.

“I can’t hold my child no longer and tell her how much I love her,” he said.

He and the mayor were not alone in saying Wednesday something needs to change in the community to put an end to these marches.

It was the third such march in the city since Tim McNerney, a popular Washington & Jefferson College football player, became a homicide victim in the city in October 2012.

Prior to the start of the march Washington NAACP President Robert Griffin said marches and rallies are not enough to curb violence.

“We need action immediately,” Griffin said.

Later at the rally, Griffin said the community will eventually find out who killed Ta’Niyah.

“Don’t be confused, we will seek justice for Ta’Niyah,” Griffin said.

“People need to talk to the police or they will keep having parades,” added Washington School Board member John Campbell.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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