Pittsburgh officer kills man after traffic stop, chase
Had similar encounter 2 years ago
April 21, 2014 11:59 PM
Officer Christopher Kertis.
Adrian K. Williams, 29, killed in an encounter with Pittsburgh police in Wilkinsburg on Monday.
By Jonathan D. Silver / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The last time Pittsburgh police Officer Christopher Kertis tangled with Adrian K. Williams during a middle-of-the-night traffic stop, the Beechview man sped off, ignoring a siren and flashing lights.
That Nov. 11, 2012, incident ended peacefully, with Williams and two passengers in custody after drugs and a gun were tossed from the vehicle window.
But the latest encounter early Monday morning between the same officer and suspect -- starting at the same place and triggered by the same reason -- ended with the 29-year-old felon shot dead on a street corner in Wilkinsburg after a chase.
Both incidents began with Officer Kertis patrolling the area outside a nightclub in Larimer. In both cases, Officer Kertis was said to have spotted a gun in a vehicle driven by Williams.
On Monday, the incident began around 3 a.m. Officer Kertis, who has been on the force since July 2011, was on patrol in the 6500 block of Hamilton Avenue around the Serenity Club -- formerly the Travelers Social Club -- when he saw a gun "in plain view" in a car parked nearby, said Charles Moffatt, Allegheny County police superintendent.
"When a person came out to drive away the car, the officer pursued in an attempt to stop it and see if the gun was legal or not. The person in the car failed to stop," Superintendent Moffatt said.
Williams drove into Wilkinsburg and crashed into a pole at Trenton Avenue.
"He jumped out of the car with several Pittsburgh police officers in pursuit," the superintendent said.
The chase went for about a block through several backyards and then ended abruptly at Ross Avenue.
"The officer told him to stop. He failed to stop. The officer saw a gun in his hand and shot; the officer shot and fatally wounded the suspect," Superintendent Moffatt said.
The county medical examiner's office ruled Williams' death a homicide. An autopsy showed he died from gunshot wounds of the trunk.
Homicide detectives are focusing on whether Williams, of Lettie Hill Street, turned to face the officer with gun in hand.
Police are reviewing video footage recovered from the dashboard cameras of the several Pittsburgh vehicles on the scene. The images captured by Officer Kertis's camera did not provide a wide enough angle to be definitive, according to the superintendent. None of the other officers' vehicles had video of the shooting, he said.
"Only one officer caught parts of the shooting. Other officers tell us certain aspects of the chase ... but not the actual shooting," Superintendent Moffatt said. "They were obscured by their positions."
Police recovered a 9 mm handgun and six casings. Ballistics testing will determine whether the shots came from one or more guns.
Superintendent Moffatt said the suspect tossed his gun away.
"He throws the gun. The gun was recovered," Superintendent Moffatt said. "It looks like he throws it as he's going down after he's shot."
Detectives will continue to canvass the neighborhood for possible witnesses and additional video from nonresidential properties.
Officer Kertis' name was not released by authorities. He was identified by sources familiar with the incident.
Williams' grandmother said the family is having a hard time processing news of his death.
"His father is walking around like a zombie," Marlene Morris said. "It's a hard pill to swallow. We're just trying to [understand] why it happened."
Williams' girlfriend declined comment. But Casey White, the attorney who represented him in the similar 2012 case, recalled his former client as a soft-spoken family man with four children.
In the 2012 case, Officer Kertis was on patrol along Hamilton Avenue hear the Serenity Club about 3 a.m. "due to the history of violence and guns in this particular area," according to a police affidavit supporting Williams' arrest.
The officer was on foot patrol when he and a partner spotted a gun inside a sport utility vehicle. They followed the vehicle after three men got in and drove away.
Police said the SUV went through a stop sign. Officer Kertis unsuccessfully tried to pull it over. As officers trailed the vehicle they said they watched cocaine and a gun being flung from the window.
Williams, who had pleaded guilty in a 2007 case to felony drug delivery and possession, pleaded guilty this March to fleeing or attempting to elude an officer. He was given five years probation.
"He never resisted or turned violent," Mr. White said. "He promised me he would keep his nose clean."
Mr. White said he was surprised to learn Williams allegedly turned a gun on a police officer.
"He obviously had made some mistakes in the past, but he was a humble, nice kid," Mr. White said. "Clearly he made another bad decision."
In 2012, Mr. White said, "He was scared and he took off. I imagine the same thing happened last night."
County police are investigating the shooting death of Williams because he died outside the city limits. The district attorney's office is overseeing the case as is protocol after officer-involved shootings and will ultimately determine whether the shooting was justified or whether criminal charges should be filed against the officer.
Officer Kertis was shot and wounded in the leg last year during an exchange of gunfire in East Liberty with a then-18-year-old Homewood man. Dante Bonner faces trial in that case.