Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Shooter Gets 5-15 Years for Oakland Killing

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Shooter Gets 5-15 Years for Oakland Killing

Article excerpt

The portraits painted by the family and friends of the victim and defendant were those of loving, caring, generous men.

But Zachary Sheridan sucker punched and beat a man before throwing a punch at a young woman, too.

And Isiah Smith fatally shot Sheridan in the back as he ran away.

At Smith's sentencing Wednesday on one count of voluntary manslaughter, Sheridan's family asked for the maximum possible penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison. Smith's asked for less.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, who heard the case in a bench trial in April, struck a compromise.

"Justice may lie somewhere in the middle," he said. "Or not."

He ordered Smith, 23, of Lincoln-Lemington to spend five to 15 years in prison.

In pronouncing his sentence, Judge Manning noted a friend of Smith's family said it best when she testified: "Why didn't you just walk away? Why didn't everybody just walk away?"

Smith was inside the Original Hot Dog Shop on Forbes Avenue about 3:20 a.m. Aug. 3 when a friend arrived to borrow money from him. The friend testified that one of Sheridan's friends, Nicholas Rotunda, approached her while she was still outside and asked if she was a jitney. Even though she said she was not, Mr. Rotunda offered her money to take him and his friends to the South Side.

When the woman refused, she claimed they harassed her. The woman went into the restaurant to get Smith and asked him to escort her back to her car.

Mr. Rotunda, Sheridan and another man with them confronted Smith's group as they left, and Smith testified that he tried to talk to Mr. Rotunda. When that was unsuccessful, Smith said he took out his gun to bluff the men into backing down, but the deception didn't work.

Instead, Mr. Rotunda kept repeating "Shoot me," and Smith put the gun away and instead pushed him.

Within seconds, Sheridan punched Smith and knocked him to the ground, and Mr. Rotunda joined in. While Sheridan continued to punch him, Mr. Rotunda ran across the street to fight one of Smith's friends.

The entire altercation was captured on video surveillance cameras in the area.

As Smith got up from the ground, he saw Sheridan punch a young woman who was with him and then reach on the ground for something. Smith testified he thought Sheridan was reaching for a gun, and as Sheridan ran across the street, Smith pulled out his weapon and fired it once.

The bullet struck Sheridan in the back.

At the emotional sentencing hearing, several people spoke on Sheridan's behalf.

They described him as an avid athlete who loved life and family, who would help carry his bedridden grandmother and sleep next to her at night in the event she might need something.

Sheridan's best friend, Bo Hodgkiss, said the two met when they played for Brookline's baseball league for 9- and 10-year-olds and became inseparable. …

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