A Pittsburgh police officer's bullet-resistant vest allowed him to escape virtually unscathed after being shot in the chest early this morning.
Police Chief Nate Harper said the officer, Andrew Baker, was hit during an exchange of gunfire with a 25-year-old Tiant Rashard Mitchell, blocks away from where three officers were killed in 2009.
"The intent of Tiant Mitchell was to kill an officer," the chief said during a press conference, where he held up Officer Baker's vest and showed a hole through the center of the chest piece.
Police detail shooting incident
A Pittsburgh police officer's bullet-resistant vest allowed him to escape virtually unscathed after being shot in the chest early today. (Video by Moriah Balingit; 10/12/2012)
The intent Chief Harper described and the location summoned memories of April 2009. Also in Stanton Heights, Richard Poplawski shot and killed Zone 5 officers Paul J. Sciullo II, Stephen J. Mayhle and Eric G. Kelly when they responded to a domestic dispute.
Chief Harper said Mitchell, who has a criminal record dating to before his adulthood, got in a fight with his wife early this morning and became "enraged," aiming a gun at her head and at a 1-year-old child's head.
In an effort to get him away from the child, his wife convinced him to walk with her to a Sunoco gas station to buy cigarettes.
At some point, he told her he wanted to kill a police officer.
As they strode down Millerdale Street, he pulled out his gun -- a 9mm semi-automatic -- and fired three shots in the air shortly before 5 a.m.
His wife told him she worried the police would come.
"Let the police come," he replied, Chief Harper said.
A fire battalion chief's truck drove by and he again reached for his gun, but did not fire any more shots, the chief said.
Officer Baker sped to the scene to in response to the report of shots and on Schenley Manor Drive encountered Mitchell and his wife standing in the middle of the street.
Mitchell opened fire on the car, striking it three times on its hood and once in a headlight, Chief Harper said.
Officer Baker jumped out of the car and was immediately struck in the chest, the chief said.
Taking cover behind the driver's side door, Officer Baker returned fire, the chief said. He retreated to the rear of the car, where he continued firing, striking Mitchell once in the buttocks.
Police believe Officer Baker also struck Mitchell's wife in the hand as she stood near her husband.
In all, police said Officer Baker emptied a clip and a half of ammunition, firing about 18 shots.
Mitchell, wounded, ran away, but was detained in the 300 block of Schenley Manor Drive.
Mitchell was taken to UPMC Presbyterian along with his wife. Conditions for both were stable and Mitchell was under heavy guard.
He is charged with attempted homicide -- firing at an officer, three counts of reckless endangerment, three counts of aggravated assault, two counts of simple assault, endangering the welfare of a child and a firearms violation. He also had an active warrant for failure to appear at a court hearing.
Mitchell has been involved in five criminal cases in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court for a variety of offenses.
He is wanted on a bench warrant for his most recent case in which he was charged with a variety of vehicle offenses and DUI but did not show up for court in August.
When Whitaker police pulled him over for making a turn without signaling Mitchell had glassy, bloodshot eyes and the smell of marijuana pervaded the car, an officer wrote in an affidavit. Mitchell followed the officer's orders and was taken into custody.
In 2009, Mitchell pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and possession of a controlled substance. He was sentenced to 23 days to two months in jail and put on probation for a year.
That case stemmed from an arrest in Braddock. In an affidavit, an officer referred to Mitchell as a "wanted person" who ran away from police. Officers said they found suspected crack cocaine. Mitchell told them he was wanted for violating his parole.
Three years before that, in 2006, Mitchell pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property, reckless endangerment and a firearms violation, which netted him a sentence of two to four years in prison.
Allegheny County civil court records indicate that Mitchell also has a juvenile record. There is a notation in court records that he was ordered to pay $250 in restitution in 2004.
This is the third time in a month and the fourth time this year Officer Baker has narrowly escaped injury while pursuing a suspect.
On Sept. 29, he was nearly run over in Verona after cornering a man who had led police on a lengthy chase. Officer Baker fired on the minivan driven by Melvin Taylor Solomon, 41, who ultimately crashed and was arrested.
Less than three weeks earlier, on Sept. 9, he and other officers were shot at while responding to a shooting on Zenith Way. They returned fire. Monte Blair, 39, was arrested Sept. 28 and accused of firing on police.
And on Feb. 21, Officer Baker stopped a man in the Strip District for speeding. The man, Brian McCrary, sped off, nearly striking Officer Baker and another officer. He fired one shot into the vehicle, but missed the suspect.
In April 2009, also in Stanton Heights, Richard Poplawski shot and killed Zone 5 officers Paul J. Sciullo II, Stephen J. Mayhle and Eric G. Kelly when they responded to a domestic dispute.
Moriah Balingit: email@example.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. Jonathan D. Silver contributed. First Published October 12, 2012 10:15 AM