Family Mourns Matthew Steffy-Ross, Teen Gunned Down at Pittsburgh Airbnb Party

A teenage boy shot to death this weekend at a house party had recently started to turn his life around after a difficult childhood, spending much of his time mentoring other kids, preparing to launch a clothing line, and campaigning 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 gathering at an Airbnb rental in Pittsburgh’s East Allegheny neighborhood. About 200 people were packed into the home, and several reportedly sustained non-life-threatening injuries from bullets or while trying to escape the pandemonium. Some partygoers jumped from second-floor windows to get away, witnesses said.

Steffy-Ross died at 1:22 am Sunday, according to records shared with The Daily Beast by the Office of the Allegheny County Medical Examiner. A second teen, 17-year-old Jaiden Brown, was also killed during the deadly incident.

“The initial investigation reveals a large party was being held at the short-term rental property, with as many as 200 people in attendance, many of them underage,” the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police announced Sunday. “As many as 50 rounds were fired inside, prompting some party-goers to jump out the windows, sustaining injuries such as broken bones and lacerations. Several more shots were fired outside the home. “

A day later, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert revised the figures, saying nearly 100 rounds were “exchanged,” implying the existence of more than one gunman. Police have not yet made any arrests in the shocking double slaying.

On Monday, Bonnie McLain, Steffy-Ross’ great-aunt, was still trying to digest the fact that her nephew was gone. Steffy-Ross was raised by her grandmother until she died three years ago, subsequently moving in with McLain, she said.

“This is a kid that needs to be known about,” McLain told The Daily Beast. The kindest kid that ever walked the face of this earth. He was always trying to help somebody… He had this gift. People just loved him. “

At the time of his 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 incorporates academic and workforce exposure, peer mentor certification training, life skills development, cultural and social enrichment, and wellness initiatives to address at-risk behavior among adolescents,” the organization’s website explains.

Steffy-Ross, who would have turned 18 in August, was “really working on his life,” McLain told The Daily Beast.

“As a young man, he had made a couple of bad choices, like young people do,” McLain said. “But he was coming back, and he was so excited.”

While he was being helped along in life by YES staffers, Steffy-Ross also positioned himself as a role model to younger students, according to McLain, who said he got at least one other local at-risk youngster into the program “and probably would have gotten other kids into it too, if he had lived. “

One of the staff mentors at YES discovered that Steffy-Ross was interested in clothing design, and began working with him to create his own line of T-shirts, according to McLain. The first shirt was going to be released next month, which McLain said she didn’t learn about until Monday.

His mentor said to me, ‘The reason you didn’t know is, 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 shirt that came off that line.”

Miles Porter, the YES program’s manager of diversion and restorative services, was one of Steffy-Ross’ mentors. Porter said that over the past couple of years he had become particularly close with Steffy-Ross, who not only had a mind for business, but empathy and concern for others, as well.

“Matt had a heart of gold, once he let you in,” Porter told The Daily Beast. “I was his mentor, and there were times that he would call just to check up on me. So that just shows the type of person he was. He was actually making a violence wall for youth that passed away, strategizing ways to prevent gun violence… I was proud of him — it was a big difference from when I first met him two years ago. ”

Back then, Steffy-Ross’ life lacked stability, according to Porter. However, Porter said McLain gave Steffy-Ross “a nice, stable home” after his grandmother died and that “everything was coming back together for him.”

“I just saw him Thursday, and we were texting on Friday. He felt like he was slacking a little bit, and he wanted to get refocused,” recalled Porter. “Growing up in the inner-city, 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 that he needed… I know he didn’t listen to everybody, but he listened to me. “

Like McLain, Porter can’t quite grasp the notion that Steffy-Ross is gone.

“There were 200 people [at that party], ”He said. “What are the chances that he would be one of the two that passed away?”

Public schools in Pittsburgh opened Monday under modified lockdown out of an abundance of caution, city officials said.

Schubert, the Pittsburgh police chief, said investigators were still trying to determine the motive behind the violence.

“We’re not going to sleep until we get who did this,” he said at a press conference. “This shouldn’t have happened. We’re sick about it. We’re going to do everything we can to get those responsible for it. “

In the meantime, McLain just wants people to know that Steffy-Ross “was not a thug.”

“These things happen, and the first thing people do is brand everybody with the same brush,” she said. “Kids are young, they go to parties, they don’t have the same sense of fear that we have. They don’t recognize it yet. And then a guy pulls out a gun and just starts shooting. “

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