Brentwood woman charged in connection with shooting death of North Hills High graduate

·3 min read

Jun. 18—A man wanted in connection with the murder of a North Hills honors student remained on the run Friday, but his girlfriend was charged Thursday with helping him escape the scene of the February shooting, according to police.

Chayla Robinson, 40, is charged with hindering apprehension in the Feb. 21 shooting of 18-year-old Ahmir Tuli outside Preeti's Pitt, the bar his mother owns and where he was working that night.

Robinson's boyfriend, 46-year-old Howard Hawkins, is charged with homicide in Tuli's killing, and he has been on the run ever since. Police allege Robinson drove Hawkins from the scene of the Penn Avenue shooting to a friend's home where he changed clothes.

Preeti Tuli, Ahmir Tuli's mother, wrote about Robinson's arrest on the Preeti's Pitt Facebook page.

"I can't even begin to explain how I felt when I saw her come out (of) police headquarters in handcuffs," she wrote.

"So many sleepless nights. So many tears I cried. There's many more coming," she wrote. "Howard Hawkins is still out there somewhere, but I'm going to continue to pray like I always do."

The shooting happened just after 9 p.m. outside the establishment. A witness working security at the bar told police he'd just assisted in kicking out a man who was drunk and disorderly, according to the criminal complaint.

The witness said the man, later identified as Hawkins, began to walk away but then returned. According to the complaint, the witness and Tuli were standing outside when Hawkins returned. The witness aid Hawkins stretched out his arm and fired one shot at Tuli's head.

Police said that same witness identified Hawkins in a photo array as the man who shot the teenager.

In the time since the shooting, investigators have also been building a case against Robinson, who they learned drove Hawkins from the Strip District that night.

Piecing together footage from private and city security cameras, police allege Robinson and Hawkins left the bar and made their way toward a black SUV parked in front of the bar. They allege Robinson got into the driver's seat while Hawkins retrieved something from the passenger side and headed toward the rear of the bar where Tuli and the witness were standing.

According to the complaint, Robinson pulled away from her parking space just as Hawkins was firing one fatal shot at the teenager. Police said footage shows her heading west on Penn Avenue then turning onto 27th Street — the same direction investigators said Hawkins fled after the shooting.

Investigators tracked the black SUV to the North Side, and surveillance of the area showed Robinson in the same car meeting with a man later identified as Terrance Rainey, according to the complaint. Officers pulled over Robinson as she left for failing to signal as she pulled away from the curb. Rainey was detained and discovered to have an illegal gun on him, court records show.

Rainey was charged with firearms violations, and police got a search warrant for the GPS and other digital information from Robinson's car, according to the complaint. That digital information showed Robinson taking the same route as the security cameras when she left the Strip District the night of the shooting but also indicated she'd driven to Rainey's home on Brighton Road afterward.

Security footage from the North Side showed Robinson arrive at the home that night, followed by Hawkins getting out of the car, going into Rainey's apartment and reemerging in different clothing, according to the complaint.

Hawkins, who also goes by the name Mark McClendon, is charged with homicide and firearms violations. Robinson was released on $50,000 unsecured bond, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 21. Court records did not list a defense attorney as of Friday afternoon.

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