Testimony begins into hit-run incident that killed Etna man

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As Robert Barone drove past Paul Lumber & Supply near the Bloomfield Bridge a year ago, he saw two men in a confrontation on Liberty Avenue.

"They were in each other's space," Mr. Barone testified Monday. He told the jury hearing the criminal case against Jeff Barva-Hamlin that the men were angry and gesturing animatedly.

But then, he continued, one of the men, Chad Vida, walked away. "I was relieved," Mr. Barone said.

But suddenly, Vida, 40 of Etna, turned around and walked back toward the other man's car.

"He looked angry," Mr. Barone said. "He was yelling, 'Go ahead and shoot me.' "

And then, "The car sped up and hit him."

Vida's head struck the windshield of the green Kia Sportage. He suffered head injuries and died a short time later at UPMC Presbyterian.

Mr. Barva-Hamlin, 28, of West Mifflin is charged with homicide, homicide by vehicle and reckless driving stemming from the incident March 30, 2013.

Defense attorney Lisa Middleman told the jury in her opening statement that Vida's death was an accident, but she also repeatedly suggested the possibility of suicide and referred to a witness she plans to call who said Vida jumped in front of Mr. Barva-Hamlin's SUV.

But Thomas Latwin, another passer-by, testified that he saw Vida get struck.

"The individual driving the vehicle just drove away like it was nothing," he said. "Sir, he just drove away."

Mr. Latwin, who served in the Marine Corps in Iraq, said he applied pressure to the wound on Vida's head until emergency medical personnel arrived.

"He landed on his head," Mr. Latwin said. "I was trying to do what I could to save the man."

Sgt. Dan Connolly, who leads the Pittsburgh police traffic reconstruction unit, testified that he believed Mr. Barva-Hamlin's vehicle was traveling 26 to 35 mph at the time of impact.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the case, Vida and the defendant got into an argument that afternoon after Vida saw Mr. Barva-Hamlin wearing the colors of the motorcycle club LAW and made a derogatory remark.

Vida walked away, and Mr. Barva-Hamlin got into the SUV with his girlfriend and her 5-year-old son, and drove off.

But the defendant, who is licensed to carry a firearm, saw Vida a short time later, and the argument continued. Mr. Barva-Hamlin said he had a gun, but he told police he never pulled it out.

He also told police he thought Vida had a gun in his hand, and that the man jumped on his windshield as Mr. Barva-Hamlin tried to drive away.

According to the complaint, his girlfriend yelled for him to pull over and call 911 after the impact, but he drove to her home.

No gun was recovered from the scene.

The trial, before Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Borkowski, continues today.


Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.

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