Gunman no stranger to police

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Pharoh Tutt

Police are investigating all aspects of Sunday’s fatal shooting.

By John W. Goodwin Jr.

YOUNGSTOWN — At least one witness said a gunman shot at police at an East Side apartment building before officers fatally wounded him.

Police officials now have a detailed account of events leading to that fatal shooting Sunday afternoon.

The huddle of apartment buildings in the Eastway Village complex off McGuffey Road were back to a quiet state Monday, but that was in stark contrast to the chaotic nature of the day before.

Gunfire and screams could be heard outside the three-story structures along with the sight of flashing lights from police and paramedics.

Pharaoh Tutt, 47, of Mercer Street was fatally wounded Sunday in a shootout with police at the apartments. Tutt, who legally changed his name from Ervin Johnson, was no stranger to law enforcement.

According to police, Tutt was first arrested in 1981 when he was 19 and charged with rape and aggravated robbery. He served more than two years in prison at that time.

Police arrested Tutt again in 1990 on charges of felonious assault and theft. He was arrested in 1995 and charged with assault on a police officer, possession of dangerous drugs, domestic violence and resisting arrest.

The events leading to Tutt’s Sunday run-in with law enforcement began just after 1 p.m. when Tutt walked into building 1093 in the apartment complex carrying a loaded firearm and a bevy of ammunition.

According to police and witness statements, Tutt went to the second floor of the building where his 50-year-old girlfriend lives and knocked on a neighbor’s door demanding to see her.

The neighbor, through a locked door, told Tutt the woman was not there. He cursed the female neighbor, calling her a liar.

Tutt then went to another apartment in the building and began banging on and kicking the door. The resident, who had been cooking, opened the door and asked Tutt why he was banging on the door. Tutt, reportedly, responded by putting a gun to the man’s head, ordering him to shut up and telling him to “bow down” or be shot. Tutt also again demanded to see his girlfriend.

After leaving that apartment, Tutt fired off about five rounds from the gun in the hallway of the building. Bullet holes in doors and mailboxes could be seen Monday. Residents told police Tutt could be heard reloading and cocking the gun in the hallway.

One man on the lower level of the three-story building told police he was hiding in a bedroom when Tutt entered the man’s apartment after shooting the gun in the hallway.

Tutt, reports said, again demanded to see his girlfriend, broke some items, heard a phone ring, and demanded the man “get ---- off the phone before I shoot your windows out.” He then left the apartment.

When Tutt left and entered the lower hallway of the building, he was almost face to face with a 26-year-old man from another building in the complex who had come at the request of a friend in the building to see what was causing the commotion.

Tutt aimed the gun at the man and chased him back out into the area in front of the building firing several shots.

As the man left the building, Police Officer Matthew Willis arrived and ordered Tutt to place his gun on the ground. Tutt reportedly did put the gun down for a brief period. But he again picked the weapon up and aimed at the building.

According to police accounts, Willis fired a shot at Tutt once he pointed the gun at the building. Tutt, reports say, turned toward the officer and pointed the gun. Willis continued to fire.

Tutt, under fire from Willis, jumped into a white sport-utility vehicle, put it in reverse and began backing it up toward Willis and Officers Russell Davis and Colleen Villio, who had both arrived at the building.

All three officers fired shots at Tutt who was, reportedly, still armed and backing the vehicle toward the officers.

When the gunfire ceased, Tutt lay slumped toward the passenger seat of the SUV bleeding heavily from the head.

One apartment building resident, who did not want to be identified, watched the entire situation unfold from the window in her living room. She said Monday that Tutt fired several shots at the building before he was fatally wounded by police.

“He wanted to die. He stood right by his truck shooting at people. When police pulled up, they kept telling him ‘Drop your weapon,’ and he didn’t. Then, he started shooting at [the police] like it wasn’t nothing, like he wanted to die,” the resident added.

Police Chief Jimmy Hughes said he is grateful that a quick response from police officers prevented the loss of more life in the situation.

“What is going on right now is that we are investigating it internally with internal affairs,” the chief said. “We are investigating through the detective division for the crimes that [Tutt] was allegedly committing such as aggravated burglary, attempted murder, felonious assault and criminal damaging. We are investigating this on multiple fronts within the department. We are comfortable, at this point, that his motives were clear — he was either intent on killing someone or being killed by police.”

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