Pittsburgh Police arrested Tyrone Correll on Wednesday, Sept. 22, for two incidents of assault in Squirrel Hill targeting Jews.
Correll, 30, was charged with simple assault, harassment and ethnic intimidation, as well as other charges stemming from his arrest, including terroristic threats, disorderly conducted, aggravated assault and resisting arrest.
According to a police report, Correll shouted antisemitic comments at a male near the intersection of Murray Avenue and Nicholson Street on the early morning of Sept. 20.
About the same time, the report states that Correll yelled profanities at a second male on Nicholson Street, but did not physically or verbally threaten him.
The report specifies that no physical or verbal threats were directed toward the second victim, though it makes no mention of a physical or verbal threat toward the first victim.
Shaare Torah Rabbi Daniel Wasserman told the Chronicle he had heard reports of an unknown person verbally assaulting congregants. The situation “came to a head,” Wasserman said, when a man came into the synagogue for services on Sept. 20 saying he had been assaulted, both physically and verbally.
“He was shaking like a leaf and said somebody had thrown him into a car,” Wasserman told the Chronicle. “At first, I thought he meant kidnapped, pulled into the car; he meant against the car.”
The synagogue’s security cameras had captured an image of Correll walking down Murray Avenue. Wasserman said he posted copies of the image on the synagogue door and reminded congregants of longstanding security protocols, which had been in place even prior to the massacre at the Tree of Life building in October 2018.
“It’s a shame we have to have them, but we do,” Wasserman said.
Correll was apprehended after a private security guard employed by Shaare Torah, along with two congregants, followed Correll through the neighborhood and called 911. While following Correll, the security guard also witnessed him shouting antisemitic obscenities at an Orthodox Jewish couple.
The description provided by the security guard, a retired law enforcement officer, played an integral role in Correll’s arrest, said Shawn Brokos, director of community security for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Brokos said that based on his description, Correll is likely responsible for several other antisemitic incidents that occurred earlier this year. Pittsburgh Police are actively investigating those incidents.
In early June, several members of the Jewish community were verbally assaulted in the vicinity of Beechwood Boulevard and Forbes Avenue. On June 13, an Orthodox male was physically assaulted walking home from synagogue services near Murray Avenue and Bartlett Street. The victim was hospitalized and required hip replacement as a result of the assault.
Brokos said while Correll has exhibited a pattern of antisemitic actions, he hasn’t been linked with any organized group.
Correll’s arrest coincides with a new initiative of the FBI, a “Stop the Hate” campaign designed to encourage victims and witnesses of potential hate crimes to report the incidents to law enforcement.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Tim Swanson told the Chronicle that the underreporting of hate crimes has been an area of concern for the bureau, and “in light of what’s going on in society, the FBI has decided to focus on hate crimes and civil rights violations, making it a national threat priority for the upcoming year.”
In Pennsylvania, hate crimes are termed “ethnic intimidation” and defined in Title 18, Section 2710 of the commonwealth’s crime code as acts “motivated by ill will or hatred” toward a victim’s or group’s “race, color, religion or national origin.”
Pittsburgh police charged Cornell under this statute.
Both Brokos and Swanson said they don’t expect community members to know whether an incident technically constitutes a hate crime, or if it violates federal or state law; they simply want people to report instances of violence, harassment or intimidation.
Brokos said several additional antisemitic attacks, most likely involving Correll, are now being reported, which could help strengthen the case against him. She urged anyone with information about any other incidents to report them to both her and the Pittsburgh Police.
“That’s why we say seeing something and saying something is essential,” Brokos said. “At the time it may not be consequential, but at a later date it may be critically important.”
Brokos said that when various incidents are reported, law enforcement can connect events that may seem unrelated to witnesses at the time they occur.
“We want to show a pattern of activity and make this an airtight case,” she said. “We want to charge him with all of this antisemitic conduct. If we have 10 or 20 witnesses, that certainly bolsters the case.”
Correll has a history of arrests dating back to 2016, including charges of aggravated assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness.
Shaare Torah’s Wasserman said he’s glad Correll’s off the streets.
“If he’s a mentally disturbed person, I hope he gets the help he needs,” Wasserman said. “If he’s a hateful person, he should bear the consequences of his actions.” PJC
David Rullo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.