New Castle News

January 21, 2013

‘Your Worst Fear’: Sharon basketball player shot to death

Tom Davidson
Sharon Herald

NEW CASTLE — “Everyone calls him ‘Lee Lee,’ ” Sharon schools Superintendent John Sarandrea said yesterday, still using the present tense to describe Le’Angelo Crumby Ford.

The 17-year-old Sharon High School sophomore died at 1:47 a.m. yesterday in the emergency room of Sharon Regional Health System after being shot once in the chest during what city police Chief Mike Menster termed a “gathering” of young people at 20 Strawbridge Ave., just a couple blocks  away from the school.

The youth’s accused shooter, Jontae Maurice Barnes, 19, of 381 Liberty St., Sharon, was taken to Mercer County Jail after failing to post $200,000 bail. He faces one charge of criminal homicide in the case.

Neighbors, students and staff of Sharon City School District were in shock yesterday as word about the shooting spread.

Le’Angelo, of Ravine Place, was a well-liked student at Sharon High who had a promising basketball career in his future.

“It’s just a tragic loss,” Sharon boys basketball coach Jason Rankin said. “He was a part of our basketball family,” Rankin said. “We’re just upset to think about everything that happened because he was a good kid.”

Le’Angelo “played hard and truly loved the game,” Rankin said.

“We had big plans for him,” Rankin said, adding he was a “super-quick point guard.”

Sarandrea and Rankin both are former basketball coaches at New Castle High. Sarandrea also served as principal there.

Because of social media, word of the tragedy spread quickly through the community, Sarandrea said.

“A number of school officials and others” were at the hospital before “Lee Lee” died, Sarandrea said.

Le’Angelo was taken to the ER by a couple people, including Barnes, who left the hospital before police arrived. Authorities were called by hospital officials at 12:07 a.m., Menster said.

Barnes was fingered as the shooter and was spotted near East State Street and Oakland Avenue and pursued to Prindle Street and Edgewood Road, where he was taken into custody at 12:16 a.m., police said.

After Le’Angelo died, Barnes was charged with the homicide. Le’Angelo had been shot once in the chest, Menster said, adding, “it’s too early to comment on a motive.”

Yesterday morning, police searched 20 Strawbridge, where Le’Angelo and Barnes and “several” other young people hung out Saturday night into early yesterday.

“This is a very quiet neighborhood,” said Kathy Swogger, who lives two doors down the street from the yellow-sided house.

“I keep an eye on this neighborhood,” Swogger said, and when police arrived, “I thought it was a drug bust,” because there had been a lot of “in-and-out” traffic at the house.

Swogger said a woman apparently rents it and lets grandchildren and their friends have the run of it. “A lot of kids” hung out there, she said.

No one answered the door at the house yesterday.

Sarandrea termed Le’Angelo’s death “your worst fear come to fruition” because a “teenager was killed senselessly, needlessly.”

“What a tremendous tragedy and a waste,” he said.

The killing reinforces the danger of guns, he said.

“Nothing good is going to happen when guns are present,” Sarandrea said.

When guns are brandished at any gathering, kids should leave immediately, he said.

“I wonder when everybody’s going to wake up to the reality,” of the danger guns pose, he said.

Students are out of school today for Martin Luther King Jr. day, and Sarandrea said the district’s crisis team is “mobilized” and that counselors will be ready when classes resume tomorrow.

“We need each other in times like this,” Sarandrea said. “I just feel horrible, really horrible.”

An autopsy is scheduled for today in Erie, Mercer County Coroner J. Bradley McGonigle said.

(Tom Davidson writes for the Sharon Herald).