Lower Burrell man pleads no contest to gun charge in officer's killing

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A Lower Burrell man charged with at one point possessing the weapon used to kill a police officer three years ago pleaded no contest Tuesday.

Exactly how the pistol made its way from James Ameris III, 54, to the man who killed Lower Burrell Officer Derek Kotecki in October 2011 is unclear. Charles Post, 33, shot himself after he killed Officer Kotecki in a Dairy Queen parking lot, officials have said.

"I can't speak with any definitive means as to how the gun specifically moved from Mr. Ameris into Mr. Post's hands," said Leo Ciaramitaro, assistant district attorney for Westmoreland County. "If we had evidence that would link other people into that that we could use in court, obviously those individuals would have been charged."

Mr. Ameris entered his plea Tuesday before Common Pleas Judge Richard McCormick of Westmoreland County.

Defense attorney Duke George said his client feels as though he fell victim to another man who gave five different stories to law enforcement officers regarding the gun.

"From Day 1, he said he never had or was involved with the Kotecki gun," Mr. George said of Mr. Ameris.

Also Tuesday, Mr. Ameris pleaded no contest in connection with another case involving a weapon and one involving witness intimidation. He pleaded guilty to drug charges and a gun violation stemming from a case that arose in 2010 after state police conducted a search and found methadone, Mr. Ciaramitaro said.

He is expected to be sentenced in July, but an exact date hasn't been set, officials said.

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published June 3, 2014 5:21 PM


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