Officer shot dead, another wounded in 'ambush' in Canonsburg
November 10, 2016 4:55 PM
Rodney Brown of Canonsburg hugs his son, Rodney Jr., 13, as hundreds of people gather Thursday night at a vigil for Canonsburg Police Officer Scott Bashioum outside the Municipal building on East Pike Street.
Gianna Cafeo, 5, of Canonsburg, came to the Canonsburg Municipal Building with her father, Joe, to pay their respects to fallen police Officer Scott Bashioum, who was killed in an ambush shooting early this morning.
Canonsburg police Officer Scott Bashioum, 52, of Washington, Pa., who was shot and killed when he and another officer answered a domestic call early this morning.
Investigators at the scene where a Canonsburg police officer was fatally shot and another wounded at a duplex on Woodcrest Drive.
The view from Woodcrest Drive and Fern Street, where police still had the area surrounding some homes blocked off, as of 11:30 a.m..
SWAT officers arrived at the scene of the fatal shooting shortly after 3 a.m. today.
State police Trooper Melinda Bonderanka talks to the media at a press conference this morning at the Canonsburg municipal building after two officers were shot, one fatally, early this morning, one fatally.
Becky Travaglini, of Canonsburg, laid her mother’s teddy bear at a memorial in front of the Canonsburg Muncipal Building. She said: “It shouldn’t happen here…we are all family”
People lay flowers and items at a makeshift memorial in front of the Canonsburg Muncipal Building after an office was shot dead early this morning.
Investigators at the scene of the shooting in Canonsburg in which a police officer was killed and another wounded. Law enforcement officials, including the FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals and Pittsburgh and Washington Regional SWAT teams, were assisting in the investigation.
Stephanie Lawrence of Canonsburg holds a candle at the vigil.
Officials remembered Officer Bashioum, 52, as a well-liked family man who had served with the U.S. Air Force.
Officer Bashioum had been with the Canonsburg department for about seven years.
Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette 20161110MWHvigil Local Mason Scott, left, 12, of Canonsburg, Pa., and Darien Preaux, 19, of Muse, Pa., stand with hundreds of people gathered to mourn for Canonsburg Police officer Scott Bashioum at a vigil held outside Canonsburg's Municipal building on East Pike Street on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.
By Liz Navratil and Karen Kane / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Scott Bashioum and Jimmy Saieva, veteran Canonsburg police officers working the graveyard shift, had just rolled up in separate cars to handle a domestic dispute at a duplex when the shooting started early Thursday.
As Officer Bashioum stepped out of his vehicle, a bullet struck him. He died a short while later.
Officer Saieva didn’t even make it out of his patrol car before he was shot and wounded.
Police called it an ambush.
By the end of the morning, Officer Bashioum, 52, suspected shooter Michael Cwiklinski, 47, and Mr. Cwiklinski’s pregnant wife, Dalia Elhefny Sabae, 28, were dead.
Late Thursday, Pennsylvania State Police continued to sort out what happened at 120 Woodcrest Drive. Officials said they had determined that Mr. Cwiklinski killed his wife, a native of Egypt with whom he had a brief but violent marriage, and then killed himself. Just a few weeks earlier, he had said that she and their unborn baby should die, according to court records. Police had little doubt that Mr. Cwiklinski was also the one who shot the officers.
“We’re pretty confident that he is the one that was the shooter based on the evidence that was there,” Trooper Melinda Bonderanka said. “Everything is leaning toward him being the shooter.”
Officers Bashioum and Saieva were dispatched to the duplex after a neighbor called 911 at 3:13 a.m. to report a domestic disturbance. They arrived within six minutes of the call.
It’s not clear whether either had a chance to fire his weapon.
Kathy Weakland, who lives a few houses down, heard loud noises and thought someone hit her car. Her husband told her those noises were gunshots. Then, she heard a different type of loud shooting sound.
The noise woke up Keith Jacob, who lives two doors down from the duplex where the shooting took place.
“Then I thought I heard someone say, ‘My partner’s down,’” Mr. Jacob said.
“This is one of those things you hope you never hear,” Canonsburg police Chief Alexander Coghill said later.
Medics took both officers to Canonsburg Hospital, where Officer Bashioum was pronounced dead at 4:10 a.m.
A helicopter took Officer Saieva to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he underwent surgery. His cousin Dawn Preteroti said later in the day that he had regained consciousness and been moved to a regular unit at the hospital.
“Jimmy’s doing better. But he’s taking it hard, about the other officer,” Ms. Preteroti said.
Canonsburg residents dropped off teddy bears and flowers outside the Canonsburg municipal building in memory of Officer Bashioum. After his death, officers held a processional from Canonsburg Hospital to the municipal building in his honor. And there was a well-attended candelight vigil at night.
Friends stopped by Officer Bashioum’s home in Washington, Pa., Thursday afternoon, some dropping off food for the family. A man at the house said the family did not wish to speak.
Mr. Cwiklinski’s parents’ home in nearby Houston was quieter. A man who answered the door said the family did not want to talk, except to say they were “very sorry for the police officers.”
Police were familiar with Mr. Cwiklinski and Ms. Sabae from previous calls.
It’s unclear how the couple met. Mr. Cwiklinski was born in Pennsylvania in 1969. His wife was born in Egypt 19 years later.
Mr. Cwiklinski worked recently at a manufacturing company. He had two criminal conviction in the 1990s from an incident in which he threatened to shoot someone’s dog that bit him, according to court records.
The only other criminal record for him in the area involved Ms. Sabae.
Friends said Ms. Sabae spoke five languages and was working on a master’s degree. A coworker at a Pittsburgh-area UPS facility, where Ms. Sabae worked until this summer, described her as “a very energetic, bright young person” who was a “great asset and a very nice person to work with.”
She worked most recently at Jeffreys Drugstore on North Central Avenue in Canonsburg — a place where one employee said she “had many friends.”
But privately, there were signs of trouble.
Ms. Sabae and Mr. Cwiklinski married in May 2015. Six months later, while they were shopping at a Walmart, Mr. Cwiklinski struck her in the face with a shopping bag. She later wrote in an application for a protection-from- abuse order that the bag contained heavy cans, and a doctor at Canonsburg Hospital told her she had a head injury, a bruise and broken blood vessels in her eyes.
She wrote that Mr. Cwiklinski had previously hit her and grabbed her. She wrote that he didn’t allow her to have friends and, “He used sex as a way to threaten me about my green card.”
South Strabane police charged Mr. Cwiklinski with simple assault and harassment for the incident at the Walmart. District Judge Jay Weller — who also presided over the couple’s marriage — ordered him to complete 16 anger management classes and to get a mental health evaluation. The simple assault charge was withdrawn, and he pleaded guilty to summary harassment.
The restraining order was dismissed after Ms. Sabae did not come to court for a hearing, according to court records.
David Wolf, the attorney who represented Mr. Cwiklinski on the assault case, said he had not seen his client recently. He said he ran into Ms. Sabae a few weeks ago, when he was in court for another case and Ms. Sabae told him she was seeking another restraining order against Mr. Cwiklinski.
Canonsburg police were called to the couple’s home this summer, after Ms. Sabae told police he grabbed her during an argument.
By October, when Ms. Sabae sought the second protection order, things had intensified. She wrote in her application for the new order that Mr. Cwiklinski was intoxicated Oct. 7, “took a lot of my belongings and locked himself in a room with them.” She wrote that she begged him to open the door but he wouldn’t, so she kicked it in.
Ms. Sabae wrote that Mr. Cwiklinski called police, who told her it was fine for her to break the door down and left. She wrote that her husband “got angry and destroyed a lot [of] my personal documents and some objects around the house,” then left. On his way out, Ms. Sabae wrote, “He was saying that I and our baby that I am pregnant with have to die.”
She called police the next day and asked how to obtain an emergency protective order. Officers suggested that she go to a women’s shelter. She wrote that she went to the shelter, returned home and Mr. Cwiklinski came back. She called police again, and officers served him with the emergency order.
Ms. Sabae appeared in court for a hearing on the order late last month. That time, she was accompanied by a lawyer. The judge granted her a three-year protective order.
It’s unclear how or when Mr. Cwiklinski got the gun he used in the shootings Thursday. Ms. Sabae wrote in her applications for the restraining orders that she did not think he had any weapons.
Federal officials, including the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are assisting with the investigation. Police departments on scene included a bomb squad, which checked the home where the shootings occurred. “There were no explosives removed from the residence,” Trooper Bonderanka said, though she did add that investigators removed some “items in question” from Mr. Cwiklinski’s vehicle.
“We are still putting a lot of this together,” state police Capt. David Heckman said during a news conference.
Support for the Canonsburg police came from various people across the state. Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all state flags at the Capitol complex and at all state facilities in Washington County to fly at half staff until sunset Monday.
He said in a statement Thursday afternoon that he and his wife, Frances, had sent condolences to the relatives of Officer Bashioum and Ms. Sabae and sent warm wishes to Officer Saieva. “These officers put their lives on the line to protect their neighbors and one of them made the ultimate sacrifice,” the governor said. “For that, we will always be grateful.”
Donations can be made to The Officer Scott Bashioum Children Memorial Fund at any Washington Financial bank branch, according to the Washington County district attorney’s office. Officer Bashioum is survived by a wife, Ashley, and four children.
Liz Navratil: email@example.com. Karen Kane: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 724-772-9180. Jonathan D. Silver contributed.