A Freeport man who Allegheny County police said died as a result of a shootout last week with a Monroeville officer actually died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Allegheny County medical examiner Karl Williams said Monday that the death of Paul J. Slimick, 26, was a suicide.
Monroeville police were called to a home in the 200 block of East Patty Lane about 10 p.m. Dec. 9 for a report of a possible burglary.
The resident of the house was able to sneak out through the basement, but according to county homicide investigators, the first Monroeville officer on the scene encountered Slimick trying to leave.
County police said in a news release Slimick had a gun but refused to comply with the officer's orders to drop it. The news release said Slimick fired at the officer, and he shot back, killing Slimick.
But, according to Dr. Williams, Slimick died from a contact wound to the head fired by a .38-caliber handgun -- what Slimick had.
Dr. Williams said the officer's .45-caliber shots struck Slimick only in the legs.
"In any case where there's involvement of the police, it's just judicious to wait [to announce any findings]," Dr. Williams said. "From my viewpoint, it was just a very confusing scene. I don't think anybody really knew.
"All the police officer knew is he fired his gun, and the guy was down."
County police Lt. Andrew Schurman said last week that the officer fired six shots.
On Monday morning, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. called the disparity between what the county police initially said happened and what the autopsy revealed "problematic."
"The matter has been assigned to investigations," Mr. Zappala said. "As of Friday, there was a lot of work that needed to be done.
"They're obviously very different scenarios, and at this point, what we want is the truth, and then we'll explain to the public what happened."
Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said Monday that the information about Slimick's manner of death should not have been released prior to autopsy.
"It shouldn't have been said until the investigation is complete," he said.
But, he also understood how it might have happened.
"Sometimes when you're examining a scene, you can't determine some things right then and there," Superintendent Moffatt said. "At a later point, when the autopsy occurs, you learn other things."
Mr. Zappala raised the point that for officer-involved shootings within the city of Pittsburgh, DA's office detectives are automatically called out to the scene.
But Superintendent Moffatt said that the situation is already similar within the rest of the county. In the event of an officer-involved shooting in a municipality, Allegheny County detectives are dispatched.
"We're doing the same thing," he said.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.