City officer who killed gunman is in elite unit

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A veteran city police sergeant from the aggressive Street Response Unit who lost a finger in a fatal 2005 gunfight in Homewood is the officer who shot and killed an armed man in Lawrenceville on Wednesday.

Sgt. Craig Campbell shot Michael Lee Ghafoor, 22, at 40th Street and Penn Avenue at about 5:12 p.m., when the Street Response Unit descended on that area to break up a reported drug deal.

Unit members said they had spotted Mr. Ghafoor, who had a long criminal record and was wanted in connection with a December shooting, selling cocaine to another man at the Exxon station there.

The response unit, created by Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper, is an elite team of about 15 uniformed officers designed to combat drug dealing by flooding a problem area with police. One of Chief Harper's priorities is curbing narcotics trafficking, which he says is the engine driving much of the city's crime.

City homicide detectives and investigators from the district attorney's office were investigating the shooting.

Sgt. Campbell has been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, which is routine.

Police said Mr. Ghafoor, who lived on the North Side but may originally have been from an East End neighborhood, pulled a .357-caliber Magnum on officers during a foot chase that included him shaking off a police dog.

Sgt. Campbell shot him several times when police said he turned toward them with the gun.

Witnesses said officers ordered him repeatedly to stop. A Taser proved ineffective because its prongs could not penetrate Mr. Ghafoor's thick coat.

Sgt. Campbell is known on the force as an aggressive officer, as are the other members of the response unit. He has been involved in several violent encounters.

On Dec. 7, 2005, the response unit was on patrol in Homewood when Sgt. Campbell and his partner, Eric Harpster, pulled over Steven Hamlin, 33, of Penn Hills, for a broken brake light.

Police said that when Sgt. Campbell reached to pat down his waist for guns, Mr. Hamlin got out and ran but apparently tripped and fell.

During a struggle with Sgt. Campbell, police said Mr. Hamlin fired a shot and Officer Harpster then opened fire.

In the exchange, Sgt. Campbell was hit in the hand and lost his finger, although it's not clear whose bullet hit him.

Mr. Hamlin later died of multiple gunshots to the torso.

On Tuesday, Sgt. Campbell and a different partner, Jason Moss, were patrolling the Hill District when a plainclothes officer reported seeing a drug transaction on Chauncey Drive.

Sgt. Campbell and Officer Moss intercepted the suspects' car after the deal and a chase began, during which the driver and his passenger threw suspected narcotics out the window.

The men bailed out of the car, but Sgt. Campbell and Officer Moss chased them down. Both suspects, identified as Sultan Shabazz, 27, and James Lewis, 29, are in the Allegheny County Jail.


Torsten Ove can be reached at tove@post-gazette.com or 412-231-0132.


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