Troopers who killed man overreacted needlessly, attorney for family says

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A North Union man fatally shot by Pennsylvania State Police Friday was trying to protect his family from what he thought was an intrusion and was not pointing guns at troopers, an attorney for his family said Tuesday.

Attorney Joel Sansone said Shawn Knight, 50, was roused from sleep Friday night and was shot three times outside his home, an incident he said was captured on a video camera installed in the neighborhood.

Based on his own early investigation, Mr. Sansone said at a news conference Tuesday the troopers fired out of "fear or overreaction" when Mr. Knight presented no threat.

State police from the Uniontown barracks said as troopers responded to a 911 call for a domestic dispute around 10:40 p.m. Friday, they were met at the house by Mr. Knight, pointing a handgun in each hand at them -- a claim Mr. Sansone disputed.

"I believe he was holding them in his hands, but they were pointed to the ground, out of the view of police officers," he said after the news conference.

The attorney said troopers responded to a domestic dispute call, but the situation had ended before they got there. The argument between Mr. Knight and his daughter involved her boyfriend and some "shoving around," but no one was injured when police arrived, he said.

Police said they retreated from the home and took cover outside, while Mr. Knight followed. Police said he ignored verbal commands, at which point both troopers fired shots at him.

"Again, I don't fault the police for making sure that the domestic had ended," Mr. Sansone said. "I fault the police for opening fire when there was no need to do so."

Pending further investigation, Mr. Sansone said he could file a lawsuit within 90 days, saying his conclusions today were still preliminary.

He also accused state police in the Uniontown barracks of lying in the past.

"There's a history at this barracks of making up stories after people have been shot, and we're going to find out if that's what happened here," he said.

Troopers in the Uniontown barracks said the shooting is under investigation and declined to comment beyond its initial news release Saturday.

The troopers were not injured and have been put on administrative duties while the incident is under investigation.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede.


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