Beaver County, PA – An officer-involved shooting case involving Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) troopers who consulted with the district attorney about using deadly force during a 2016 standoff has become a topic of discussion for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s State Law Enforcement Citizen Advisory Commission (SLECAC).
The district attorney who was involved in making the decision to have a PSP sniper fire on the suspect was later tasked with determining whether or not the trooper’s use of deadly force was appropriate, WESA reported.
Whether or not the shooting was justified has not become an issue of concern, but the prosecutor’s involvement has raised questions, WESA reported.
Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier said he responded to the scene of the standoff that day and was in continuing conversations with troopers regarding what was happening.
“We were discussing as the situation worsened the use-of-force parameters to make sure the State Police who were running the scene and I were in agreement,” Lozier told WESA. “We’re all being smart in the way that we are responding to a violent situation.”
The gunman opened fire on police at one point during the melee, and ultimately killed himself after being shot by the PSP trooper, WESA reported.
Lozier said the issue of whether the case should have been handed off to an outside prosecutor for final review never came up, but he now acknowledges doing so might have been a better option.
“We did a review and everything was in compliance with use-of-force protocols and the statute. And that was it,” he told WESA. “Looking back on it, maybe different decisions would be made as far as an outside review.”
The SLECAC is comprised of 21 voting members, to include one representative from each of the PSP’s 15 troops, the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reported.
Wolf established the commission in 2020 to review law enforcement practices within the state and to come up with recommendations regarding bias-based policing, officer-involved shootings, and use of force.
The commission does not examine cases to determine if police handled situations correctly.
The citizen-led panel’s recommendations pertain to state-level law enforcement agencies, including state park ranger and Capitol police, as well as the PSP, WESA reported.
Commission Member Elizabeth Pittinger said the panel reviewed the Beaver County case not because any of the previous findings were incorrect, but because analyzing how the case was handled could help identify necessary changes to prevent potential problems in the future, WESA reported.
“If we can reach toward that outcome that guarantees the impartiality of the entire process then we’ve gone a long way in protecting the agency, protecting civilians,” Pittinger opined.
The SLECAC voted Dec. 10 to pass seven recommendations on to the SPS, including a recommendation that all officer-involved shootings or use-of-deadly-force cases to an independent agency for investigation, WESA reported.
The panel’s suggestions have been taken “under advisement,” according to Pennsylvania State Police Communications Director Brent Miller.
“PSP appreciates the dedication and time these citizens have volunteered to improving public safety and fair treatment, and addressing inequities in law enforcement,” Miller told WESA.