Shots jolt neighborhoods

January 18, 2013

WILKES-BARRE – One man was killed and another man shot in the head in a shooting in a residential neighborhood on Scott Street early Thursday morning.

Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis identified the deceased man as Leroy Michael Smith, 42, last known address as North Empire Street, Wilkes-Barre.

Smith suffered a gunshot wound to the chest at about 2:30 a.m. Police found him lying against a building at 131 Scott St., near Don Kasper's Watering Hole tavern, which was closed at the time.

Salavantis said Jamal L. Martin, 20, address unknown, was shot in the head. Martin was transported to Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township, police said.

A city police officer patrolling the area found Smith and Martin several feet from each other.

A woman who resides nearby said she was awakened by gunfire. She looked out her window and saw a police cruiser's flashing lights.

I didn't see anyone running or driving away. I saw the police car pull up really quick and then more police and the ambulance, the woman said, requesting her name remain anonymous.

Salavantis, who was at city police headquarters for most of Thursday, said investigators believe the shooting was isolated.

We do not have anybody in custody, Salavantis said. We do not feel from the investigation that this is a random act of violence. We don't have people gunning down other people.

She said evidence collected at the scene indicates Smith and Martin did not shoot each other.

Police did recover shell casings from the ground.

About 40 yards from where Smith was found, a Wilkes-Barre Crime Watch sign is posted on a utility pole along Scott Street.

The state police Forensic Services Unit is assisting in the investigation.

Court records indicate Smith was charged with reckless endangerment, receiving stolen property and illegal possession of a firearm after he allegedly shot at a toilet inside Shooter's Bar on Scott Street on Aug. 2, 2011.

Police said in court records that they recovered a loaded .40-caliber handgun inside a vehicle where Smith allegedly hid the weapon.

The charges were withdrawn against Smith at a preliminary hearing on Aug. 25, 2011, according to court records.

Acting Coroner William Lisman pronounced Smith dead at the scene at 4:15 a.m. An autopsy is scheduled today at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital.

City police on Thursday responded to a second shooting incident; a man was shot on Coal Street just before noon. The victim, whom police did not identify, was in serious condition.

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton said in a written statement that although the shootings occurred within hours of each other, it was too early to speculate about a possible connection. He said authorities are confident that neither shooting was a random act of violence.

Given the proximity of these shootings to one another, I know that many city residents may be shocked, angered and afraid tonight. The general public should not feel an undue risk of harm. I want to reassure them that this administration's top priority is to keep you and your family safe, Leighton said.

These disturbing acts of violence have no place in our community. We will not tolerate it as we continue to combat violence in our streets. I have informed (Police) Chief Gerard Dessoye that he will have every available resource at his disposal to find those responsible in (Thursday's) shootings, he said.

Leighton asked that anyone with information about either shooting contact Wilkes-Barre police immediately at 826-8111.

Leighton added that as one of the first members of the Mayor's Coalition Against Illegal Guns, he was encouraged by President's Barack Obama's legislative package unveiled Wednesday to curb violence in the streets.

Universal background checks on all gun sales and restricting the bullet capacity of magazines are common-sense reforms that will save lives not just in Wilkes-Barre but across Pennsylvania and the country. Today, I would like to add my name in support of those measures, Leighton said.

Times Leader staff writer Steve Mocarsky contributed to this story.