Officer shoots, kills driver trying to flee in Knoxville

Man had gun in lap during traffic stop, officers say

Another traffic stop turned deadly Friday afternoon when a Pittsburgh plainclothes officer shot and killed a man who they said pulled out a gun while trying to flee from police in Knoxville.

The 24-year-old North Side man, whose name had not been released Friday night, was pronounced dead at 4:25 p.m., shortly after he arrived in the UPMC Mercy emergency room, according to the Allegheny County medical examiner's office.

His death was the first to occur at the hands of a Pittsburgh police officer since October 2010, when an officer fatally shot a burglar who "lurched" at him with a knife.

It came just hours after hundreds of police gathered in Washington to mourn the death of East Washington police Officer John David Dryer, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop last weekend and whose death underscored the dangers of the common motor vehicle stop.

Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper called the North Side man's death "unfortunate" and said the officer "had to fatally wound this individual because [he] felt that this individual was ready to fire upon them."

Shortly before 4 p.m., two undercover officers from the city's Zone 3 station stopped a man driving a gold Mercedes Benz E320 down Brownsville Road near Bausman Street for an unspecified traffic violation.

Paul Gjebre, 47, was working on the roof of a nearby building when he heard a siren and saw police step out of an unmarked car. He said he watched as the man handed something, possibly a driver's license, over to police and then he heard an officer scream, "Stop. Stop."

The undercover officers had asked the man to put up his hands and found a gun in his lap, said Lt. Daniel Herrmann of the Major Crimes Unit.

Officers told the man to drop his weapon, Chief Harper said. The man tried to flee, running into the back of a parked van owned by Phillips Heating & Air Conditioning Inc.

The car got hung up on the back of the van, and officers repeated their calls for the man to drop his weapon, the chief said.

Several shots rang into the air.

Nick Bishop, an 18-year-old Carnegie resident passing through the area, said the man opened the door and "flopped" onto the ground.

Paramedics arrived moments later and took the man to the hospital, but police said he died before he arrived.

Officers spent nearly two hours in the snow collecting evidence. A bullet hole pierced a back passenger-side window of the man's car.

Chief Harper said police believe only one of the two undercover officers fired shots. The bureau was not releasing the name of that officer Friday night.

Both men worked in a "99 car," meaning they are trained to spot signs of guns and drugs in problem areas.

Keeping with normal police protocol, both officers were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation, which will be conducted with the Allegheny County district attorney's office.

Pittsburgh police procedure allows officers to shoot at a fleeing vehicle only when it is being used as a weapon against them or when the people inside it are using deadly force against others.

Liz Navratil: or 412-263-1438. First Published December 24, 2011 5:00 AM


Create a free PG account.
Already have an account?