Pittsburgh police charge driver after South Side pursuit, officer-involved shooting
Share with others:
Five off-duty Pittsburgh police officers fired nearly a dozen shots while a car led officers on a chase early Sunday morning from Homestead through the South Side, according to court documents filed today.
One of the officers aimed at the wrong car in confusion.
Pittsburgh police today arrested Donald Burris Jr., 32, of Carnegie, on charges of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person and fleeing or attempting to elude officers in connection with the chase. Police took him into custody after his release from UPMC Mercy.
Homestead police attempted to pull Mr. Burris over after he ran a red light but he continued driving, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Five off-duty Pittsburgh police officers working an overtime detail on the South Side when the chase came down E. Carson Street -- officers Igor S. Boyko, Thomas M. Gorecki and Louis R. Schweitzer, narcotics detective Calvin Kennedy and Sgt. Stephen Matakovich -- have been placed on paid administrative leave while homicide detectives and members of the Allegheny County district attorney's office investigate.
Mr. Burris was released from UPMC Mercy after he was treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder and an arm injury.
His mother, Lena Davenport, 49, of Wilkinsburg, remained in UPMC Mercy in critical but stable condition yesterday after undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound to the eye.
As the driver and the Homestead and West Homestead officers chasing him made their way toward the South Side -- often at speeds of about 40 mph -- Sgt. James Perry, who was working as a supervisor in the Zone 3 station that covers the South Side, could be heard shouting for officers to "terminate the pursuit."
Pittsburgh police reports indicate Sgt. Perry called for officers to stop the chase near 33rd and East Carson and they unsuccessfully placed spike strips near 24th Street in hopes of stopping the car, which was weaving through lanes of traffic.
Those reports also indicate Homestead police continued pursuing the Buick into the business district.
Homestead police Chief Jeffrey DeSimone said he was not aware of any requests that his officers stop the chase and thought they had backed off and were instead following several seconds behind when the action intensified.
"My guys weren't in the heart of the South Side when [the Buick] was smacking off cars," Chief DeSimone said. "My guys didn't witness that. They heard the shots, they did not see them."
Sgt. Matakovich told homicide detectives that he was working in the 1500 block of East Carson Street when he heard word about the pursuit come over the police scanner and began walking toward the 1600 block of East Carson Street, where he found narcotics detective Calvin Kennedy, who was working an off-duty detail outside Winghart's Burger and Whiskey Bar.
Sgt. Matakovich said he began yelling at a girl to get out of the road and saw headlights as the car made its way toward the 1700 block of East Carson.
He said he and Detective Kennedy were in the middle of the road yelling for pedestrians to move when the car passed, coming "no more than 30 feet from them and flying" when he pulled out his gun and fired four times, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
He also said he heard detective Kennedy fire once before the car drove past them and banged off a car in the inbound lane.
The sergeant told homicide detectives he, Detective Kennedy and Officer Scott Bobak began running down the street when he heard several more gunshots.
Zone 5 Officer Louis Schweitzer told investigators he and Sgt. Ray Ripple were working near Diesel Night Club in the 1600 block of East Carson when they ran into the street and tried to clear pedestrians from the roadway.
He said he fired three or four shots when the car came careening toward him and the sergeant, according to the affidavit. He said he ran down the street and did not see the final crash.
Officer Gorecki told investigators he heard several shots fired and stepped out near the 1400 block of East Carson to see the green Buick LeSabre rear end one car and then head toward him and a Classy Cab, placing him between the cab and the Buick when fired two shots at the driver from about five or six feet away, according to the affidavit.
He said the car crashed with the cab and stopped in the 1300 block of East Carson. He said he jumped on the hood of the cab and held up his weapon until medics removed Mr. Burris from the car.
Officer Boyko told investigators he was between the 1400 and 1300 blocks of East Carson when he heard the chase on a police radio and gunshots and saw a Buick SUV accelerating toward him, mistook it for the car being chased and fired several shots in fear for his life, according to the affidavit.
No one in that SUV, which stopped in the 1200 block of East Carson, was injured.
Videos posted on YouTube and other sites showed one of the officers standing on the hood of a car next to the smashed Buick.
Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper said Sunday that officers did not find weapons or drugs inside the car or in the possession of Mr. Burris or Ms. Davenport.
"The officers felt the use of deadly force was justified because the actor was using his vehicle as a deadly weapon," he said.
First Published January 15, 2013 11:46 am