A teenager shot dead at a house party over the weekend had recently begun to turn his life around after a difficult childhood, spending much of his time mentoring other children, preparing to launch a clothing line and to campaign against gun violence, school officials and family members told The Daily Beast.
Matthew Steffy-Ross, 17, was killed when shots rang out early Sunday morning during a rally at an Airbnb rental in the East Allegheny neighborhood of Pittsburgh. About 200 people were crammed into the house and several were said to have suffered non-life-threatening injuries from gunshots or as they tried to escape the pandemonium. Some revelers jumped from second-story windows to flee, witnesses said.
Steffy-Ross died at 1:22 a.m. Sunday, according to records shared with The Daily Beast by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office. A second teenager, Jaiden Brown, 17, was also killed in the deadly incident.
“Initial investigation reveals a large party was being held at the short-term rental property, with up to 200 people in attendance, many of them minors,” the Pittsburgh Police Department said Sunday. “As many as 50 bullets were fired inside, prompting some revelers to jump out of windows, sustaining injuries such as broken bones and lacerations. Several more shots were fired outside the house.
A day later, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert revised the numbers, saying nearly 100 rounds had been “swapped,” implying more than one shooter. Police have yet to make any arrests in the shocking double murder.
On Monday, Bonnie McLain, Steffy-Ross’ great-aunt, was still trying to process the fact that her nephew was gone. Steffy-Ross was raised by her grandmother until her death three years ago, then moved in with McLain, she said.
“He’s a kid that needs to be known,” McLain told The Daily Beast. “The nicest kid that ever walked the face of this earth. He was always trying to help somebody… He had that gift. People just loved him.
At the time of her death, Steffy-Ross was finishing high school through Pittsburgh’s Youth Enrichment Services program, known as “YES,” McLain said.
“The heart of YES is Mentoring Partnerships, a community-based program that integrates academic and professional exposure, peer-to-peer mentor certification training, life skills development, cultural and social enrichment, and wellness initiatives. -be to address risky behaviors among adolescents,” the organization said. explains the website.
Steffy-Ross, who would have turned 18 in August, was “really working on her life,” McLain told The Daily Beast.
“As a young man he had made some bad choices, as young people do,” McLain said. “But he was coming back and he was so excited.”
While aided in life by YES staff members, Steffy-Ross also positioned himself as a role model for younger students, according to McLain, who said he involved at least one other local at-risk youth to the program “and probably would have coached other kids too, had he lived.
One of YES’s staff mentors discovered that Steffy-Ross had an interest in clothing design and began working with him to create his own line of t-shirts, according to McLain. The first shirt was due out next month, which McLain said she only heard about on Monday.
“His mentor said to me, ‘The reason you didn’t know was that the plan was to surprise you,'” McLain recounted. “Next week he was going to start getting the t-shirts printed and he was going to surprise me with the first t-shirt to come out of this line.”
One of Steffy-Ross’ mentors was Miles Porter, Manager of Diversion and Restoration Services for the YES program. Porter said that over the past two years, he’s grown particularly close to Steffy-Ross, who not only has business acumen, but also empathy and concern for others.
“Matt had a heart of gold, once he let you in,” Porter told The Daily Beast. “I was his mentor, and there were times he would just call to check on me. So that just shows the type of person he was. In fact, he was building a wall against violence for young people who died, strategizing to prevent gun violence… I was proud of him, it was a big difference since I first met him there. two years old.
At the time, Steffy-Ross’ life lacked stability, according to Porter. However, Porter said McLain gave Steffy-Ross “a nice, stable home” after his grandmother’s death and “everything is falling into place for him.”
“I just saw him on Thursday and we were texting on Friday. He felt like he was slacking off a bit and he wanted to refocus,” Porter recalled. “Growing up downtown, there’s a lot of pressure and friends who may not be doing the best things. But that’s why it’s good that he came to us. We were kind of the influence he needed…I know he didn’t listen to everyone, but he listened to me.
Like McLain, Porter can’t quite grasp the idea that Steffy-Ross is gone.
“There were 200 people [at that party],” he said. “What are the odds that he’s one of the two deceased?”
Pittsburgh public schools opened Monday under a modified lockdown out of caution, city officials said.
Schubert, the Pittsburgh police chief, said investigators are still trying to determine the motive for the violence.
“We’re not going to sleep until we find out who did this,” he told a news conference. “It shouldn’t have happened. We are fed up. We will do everything to catch those responsible. »
In the meantime, McLain just wants people to know that Steffy-Ross “wasn’t a thug.”
“These things happen, and the first thing people do is brand everyone with the same brush,” she said. “The children are young, they go to parties, they don’t have the same feeling of fear that we do. They don’t recognize it yet. And then a guy pulls out a gun and just starts shooting.