A student allegedly shot and killed a classmate outside Oliver Citywide Academy
Oliver Citywide Academy on the North Side closed for the day Wednesday morning after one student allegedly shot and killed another student on the steps outside the high school shortly before classes began for the day.
Derrick Harris, 16, was shot around 7:25 a.m. in front of the school on Brighton Road and died a short time later at a hospital. Pittsburgh police arrested and charged Jaymier Perry, 15, with homicide and firearms violations in the shooting. He is being held without bail in the Allegheny County Jail pending a preliminary hearing, scheduled for June 2.
The fatal shooting of a student is the second in as many years at Oliver, a full-time special education center on the North Side for grades 3-12. A teacher also was raped by a student at Oliver in September. About 100 students are typically enrolled there.
Police Cmdr. Richard Ford said police responded to the school after ShotSpotter locators in the neighborhood detected 11 shots. When police arrived, they found Harris, who had been shot several times, outside the front entrance of the school. They also apprehended a male running from the school with a gun, Ford said.
Officers provided first aid for Harris until paramedics arrived and took the wounded teen to a hospital, where he died, Ford said. It wasn't immediately clear how many students and staff witnessed the shooting. City spokeswoman Maria Montano said most students were still on their way to the school when the shooting happened, and buses were rerouted to another school building.
Students already in the school were kept in the building. Others who were on their way were taken to Pittsburgh Manchester Pre-K-8 or notified to return home.
Students at Oliver will learn remotely for the remainder of the week, at least, according to officials.
Shabaka Zorubian, who lives near the school, said he was still in bed and watching television when he heard "about five to eight gunshots." He heard police sirens a few minutes later, and "If I hear the sirens, I know something happened," he said.
"I came outside to investigate, and ... I've seen them bring somebody out on a gurney," he said.
Pittsburgh Public Schools officials did not respond to numerous requests for information about the shooting or how the district notified and responded to parents. The district released no public information about the shooting for more than three hours, when it issued a brief statement confirming that a student had died and that Oliver was closed.
"It's sad. It's sickening. I'm just praying for the families, said Troy Gonzalez, who lives near the school. A 2000 graduate of Oliver when it was still a general high school, Gonzalez said he was taking his children to other schools Wednesday morning when he encountered police on Brighton Road.
"They blocked us from coming up, and we heard that there was a shooting [and] a child got shot in the chest," he said. "We went on social media, and we [saw it was a] ... kid who did the shooting."
Gonzalez said he did not know the shooting victim, but he called the student's death "a tragedy" and noted that "this is the second shooting here."
In January 2022, 15-year-old Oliver student Marquis Campbell was shot and killed in a school van parked outside the building. He was killed on his first day back at the Oliver campus after attending schools elsewhere.
Campbell returned to Oliver when it resumed in-person instruction, though school officials say his mother had asked for him to remain home as she feared for his safety. More than a year later, city police in April arrested two brothers — Eugene Watson, 18, and Brandon Watson, 17 — and charged them with homicide and other offenses in Campbell's death.
"This school here was never . . . the best school, but it wasn't like it is now. It was cool — I had a great time here, you know?" said Gonzalez, who said he attended Oliver for grades 9-12 and played on its football team.
"There were killings [when I was] growing up — I'm born and raised on the North Side — but not at this rate. There were never shootings outside the school," he said.
Gonzalez also noted that his teenage son typically catches a bus near Oliver on his way to attend another school Downtown but left earlier than usual on Wednesday.
"Everything happens for a reason, and I'm happy he left out earlier this morning so he didn't have to witness the tragedy," he said. "Every day [as] a parent, the biggest fear for a parent, in my opinion, is to lose a child before you. You know, it's supposed to be the children burying you, not you burying your children."
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Ed Gainey condemned the shooting and called for prayer for the "family, friends and the entire Oliver Citywide Academy community as they are once again mourning a young life taken by gunfire." City community violence intervention teams will help to support students and connect the student victim's family with additional services, he said in the statement.
A frequent critic of gun violence, Gainey again urged city residents to join in creating "a future that doesn't end with bullets and gunfire."
"No child should ever have to fear going to school, and no parent should ever worry about their child never coming home," he said. "As a society, we have to reclaim our children, and we have to begin putting our children first. We have cultivated a culture of violence and death, celebrated guns, and glorified shooting. We have failed as a country to stop the proliferation of guns, and it is far too easy for a young person to get those guns and retaliate in the way our culture has glorified it.
"Pittsburgh, we can and must do better," the mayor said. "We have to cultivate a new culture, create a new path forward for our kids, and we are committed to investing in our kids to provide them with hope for a better tomorrow and a future that doesn’t end with bullets and gunfire."