DA determines officers justified in fatal shooting of man who stabbed K-9
Port Authority CEO 'regrets' service for K-9 while family grieved
June 21, 2016 11:35 PM
Kimara King performs a spiritual dance and reading at a memorial service for her cousin, Bruce Kelley Jr., in photo at right, at Apostolic Christian Temple in Washington, Pa.
Bruce Kelley Jr.
Stills from a video show the events leading up to the death of a K-9 officer, Aren, and the police shooting of Bruce Kelley Jr., 37, in Wilkinsburg. In the video, officers are seen trailing Kelley, who is wielding the 4-inch blade that he would use to stab Aren multiple times.
By Dan Majors and Paula Reed Ward / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. on Tuesday found two Port Authority police officers justified in the fatal shooting of a man who had stabbed a police dog in Wilkinsburg in January.
The ruling, part of a 13-page report on the death of Bruce T. Kelley Jr., of Washington, Pa., cleared the way for Officers Dominic Rivotti and Sgt. Brian O’Malley to return to duty.
Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean announced the reinstatement of the officers in a news release that also expressed “regret” for the memorial service and procession for the police dog while the Kelley family was grieving.
“While the department was mourning the death of an officer, in hindsight, we shouldn’t have had the type of service and procession held for K-9 officer Aren,” Ms. McLean said. “We regret the insensitivity to the Kelley family during their time of mourning.”
Ms. McLean also said the Port Authority this summer will train an officer in mental health first aid. After that, the officer will be able to train other officers.
The ruling didn’t sit well with the Alliance for Police Accountability.
Its president and CEO, Brandi Fisher said in a statement issued late Tuesday:
“To add insult to injury, today's findings by District Attorney Zappala refused to honor the humanity of the situation. Instead, it was a typical rubber stamp that preserves, at all costs, the relationship between police and prosecutors to the detriment of poor people, and people of color, on a daily basis all over the country. Mr. Kelley deserved better.”
The incident occurred about 3 p.m. Jan. 31, when Port Authority officers on patrol along the East Busway confronted Kelley, 37, when they found him and his 60-year-old father drinking malt liquor near a gazebo there. Kelley resisted the officers, pulled out a knife and ran away.
Additional officers responded and followed Kelley for about 20 minutes, the DA’s report said, using pepper spray, Tasers and a baton in attempts to subdue him as he wound through residential backyards. Eventually, Sgt. O’Malley and his dog joined the search.
Sgt. O’Malley demanded Kelley drop the knife and get on the ground, and after his commands were ignored, announced that he would release Aren. Kelley yelled, “I’ll stab that [expletive] dog.”
When Aren attacked, Kelley slashed at the dog, killing him. Officer Rivotti told investigators that Kelley, still holding the knife, began “moving in the direction” of Sgt. O’Malley.
Sgt. O’Malley fired nine shots and Officer Rivotti shot twice. Kelley was struck seven times and died at the scene.
“Quite simply,” Mr. Zappala said, “non-lethal options had been deployed at length and to no avail.”
The DA’s report determined that the use of deadly force was appropriate because Kelley had committed a felony in assaulting an officer, was in possession of a deadly weapon, refused officers’ instructions and was attempting to escape. Furthermore, the officers’ lives or the lives of others were in danger, Mr. Zappala said.
“The fact that [he] used the deadly weapon he had in his possession to kill a police animal further bolsters the legitimate concern that he would otherwise endanger human life,” Mr. Zappala said.
“The deployment of canine Aren was another attempt to take [Kelley] into custody with the use of non-lethal force. [His] action of stabbing canine Aren manifests a continued intent to resist and escape on his part.”
A Port Authority spokesman said the agency would not comment further because of pending lawsuits, but officials attending a community forum after the incident were made aware of public concerns that a dog’s life seems to have been valued more than that of a person.
“This was a tragic outcome for everyone involved and no words can change that,” Ms. McLean said in her statement.
Dan Majors: firstname.lastname@example.org and 412-263-1456. Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com.
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