Trooper held for court in pepper-spray incident involving girlfriend's son

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A suspended Pennsylvania State Police trooper accused of pepper-spraying his girlfriend's son last year in Fayette County will stand trial on charges of endangering the welfare of children and harassment.

Ernest R. Boatright, 48, a 24-year veteran of the force, is on unpaid leave from the New Stanton barracks. Attorney Matthew R. Zatko said his client maintains his innocence.

"We welcome the opportunity to defend these charges and clear his name," he said, noting the that story the accuser told in court Wednesday was "far different" from the account he gave to police months earlier.

The trooper's girlfriend told police that she went inside her then 13-year-old son's room at her home in Menallen on April 19 and smelled what she thought was pepper spray, state police in the Greensburg barracks wrote in a criminal complaint.

Mr. Zatko said the trooper was living there at the time, but a Penn Hills address is listed for him in court records.

In an April interview with police, the teen said he was lying in bed and remembered hearing something hit the wall above him, then immediately started to cough and sneeze. He was familiar with pepper spray because Trooper Boatright had sprayed him once before, he told police.

The trooper told a county Children and Youth Services supervisor that he had used Mace on two cats on the enclosed front porch just outside the bedroom on the day of the alleged incident, according to the complaint.

Molly Born: or 412-263-1944.

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