The prosecution of a Greene County man in connection with a shooting in a suburban Washington theater last year is now being handled by the state attorney general’s office.
Because of that recent development, the scheduling of a trial date is still unknown for the man accused of shooting a teenager in what has been described as a racial confrontation.
Chris Allan Williams, 53, of Waynesburg, has been charged with aggravated assault, terroristic threats, simple assault, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and harassment.
The victim, Anthony Ward, now 18, was a juvenile at the time he was watching the movie, “Us,” a tale of psychological horror, with friends the night of March 23, 2019, before violence erupted in Regal Crown Center Theater in North Franklin Township.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Patrick Schulte said after the brief court proceeding Friday morning that Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone requested by letter last month that the state take over the case.
“The reason he gave was lack of resources,” Schulte explained in an interview. “This is kind of a routine thing. We have 330 cases this year so far that are referrals from various district attorneys offices from around the state. “There’s no rule prohibiting a case coming to our office at any particular point in time in a case.”
Because the change in prosecutors was so recent, Schulte requested a continuance so he could familiarize himself with the circumstances.
A piece of evidence that Schulte said he was not at liberty to discuss was just turned over to the defense, “so now everyone has all the information.”
Judge Valarie Costanzo granted Schulte’s request and set the next court appearance for Oct. 26.
“We didn’t expect it, but I was not totally surprised Mr. Vittone didn’t want to prosecute the case,” said Williams’ attorney, Jack Puskar.
According to testimony at previous proceedings, Williams, who is white, rose from his seat in the audience and walked up to the row where Ward, who is Black, and friends were seated and reacting noisily to the film.
Williams “started yelling at us,” Ward testified, repeating an expletive directed toward the group with Williams saying the teens should “shut up.”
The confrontation became physical, with punches aimed at the face of Williams, who was knocked to the floor in the melee.
Ward’s friends ran from the auditorium, and as Ward exited, he said Williams came from behind him and he saw a gun pointed at his face.
“He called me the N-word,” testified Ward, who said a scuffle at floor-level ensued. “I was moving around so much, the gun went off and I got shot in the leg.”
Ward said he had been attempting to disarm an attacker when a bullet lodged in his lower right calf. The injured teen was eventually flown by helicopter to Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, and, about a month later, underwent surgery.
Williams, who worked as a corrections officer at SCI-Greene, was treated at a hospital and released the night of the episode.
Demonstrations took place in the wake of the shooting, and more than a month lapsed before charges were filed.
Williams has been on leave from his job, Puskar said.
Vittone did not immediately return a request for comment.