WILKES-BARRE — An alleged fight between two boys after a basketball game apparently escalated to a confrontation between families, ending with one boy’s father dead and the other father in jail facing a criminal homicide charge.
Shauntae Thomas, 36, has been charged in the fatal shooting of Derrick Cottle, 40, in front of 77 Reno Lane just before 7:30 Thursday night.
Investigators say Thomas’ son and Cottle’s son, whose names were not released, were involved in two fights prior to the deadly shooting. In the second fight, Thomas’ son was struck in the head and knocked, according to investigators. That was quickly followed with Thomas allegedly firing a 9mm handgun, striking Cottle twice in the head.
Police believe the two boys were playing basketball at Coal Street Park prior to the fights and shooting.
“We heard a lot of screaming and yelling. The next thing they were running up in the alley here and we heard bang, bang, … and I’d seen a guy walking down the alley with a gun in his hand,” said Reno Lane resident Charles Chihany. “I called 911 and that fast the cops were here.”
Chihany said he was grilling outside in his yard when he heard the chaos on Reno Lane.
Thomas was detained by an off-duty Jackson Township police officer in the area of 26 Reno Lane until city police arrived at the scene, Chihany said. A 9mm handgun was found nearby, police said.
Thomas was arraigned just after 4 a.m. Friday by District Judge Paul Roberts in Kingston on a criminal homicide charge. He was jailed without bail at the county correctional facility.
An autopsy by forensic pathologist Dr. Gary Ross at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital showed Cottle, of New Hancock Street, Wilkes-Barre, died from multiple gunshots. His death was ruled a homicide.
A memorial was set up near the site Cottle was gunned down on Reno Lane. Two hats — Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls — with the words “RIP Self” written on them were placed on a cinderblock with two candles. The words “RIP $elf Love” were spray-painted on the road.
No one answered the door at Thomas’ residence on Reno Lane.
Chihany said he often talked to Thomas about the Chicago Bears, their favorite NFL football team.
“He’s a nice guy,” Chihany said. “I talked to him all the time. I didn’t know he could do something like that.”
Chihany and other Reno Lane residents said the small roadway just off Coal Street is normally quiet and peaceful.
According to the criminal complaint:
Thomas told police he was out shopping with his girlfriend and arrived at her residence at 26 Reno Lane, where his son ran inside saying he was being harassed and threatened by a group of people, including Cottle’s son.
Thomas and his son searched for Cottle’s son, finding him in the area of Empire and Coal streets, where the two boys fought. After the fight, Thomas and his son walked across Coal Street. Cottle asked Thomas why he was fighting with his son. Thomas said he replied that it was his son who was in the fight.
Thomas claimed when he arrived home, his son ran into the house and told him to “hurry outside.” Thomas said he encountered a group of people, including Cottle and Cottle’s son, in front of his house.
Cottle allegedly told Thomas that “He wanted to finish things” and “There were going to be bodies laying down and that they do homicides,” the complaint states.
Thomas’ son began arguing; he was struck in the head and knocked unconscious. Thomas told police when he saw his son get struck, he pulled out a gun from his waistband and chased after the group of people, firing several rounds, according to the complaint.
A witness told police he heard four gunshots.
“There were young kids doing all kind of screaming and yelling,” Chihany said. “Someone had to die over a stupid basketball game.”
Thomas is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on May 9 before District Judge Martin Kane in Wilkes-Barre.
Mayor Thomas M. Leighton in a statement released Friday praised city police and the district attorney’s office.