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Hero Down: McKeesport Police Department Officer Sean Sluganski Murdered By Gunman

McKeesport, PA – McKeesport Police Department (MPD) Officer Sean Sluganski was murdered in the line of duty while responding to a domestic disturbance on Monday afternoon.

The Allegheny County Police Department (ACPD) said the incident occurred in the 1400-block of Wilson Street at approximately 12:11 p.m. on Feb. 6, WTAE reported.

Officer Sluganski and fellow MPD Officer Charles Thomas responded to the area after the department was notified that a male was in the midst of a mental health crisis and that he was possibly armed.

The call was placed by the suspect’s mother, who said her son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was being aggressive, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

The suspect has since been identified as 31-year-old military veteran Jonathan Jermia Morris, WTAE reported.

Investigators said the officers tried to talk with Morris when they arrived at the scene, but he refused to communicate with them.

“The officers attempted to speak with the subject, and he walked away without speaking with officers,” ACPD Superintendent Christopher Kearns said, according to WTAE.

He then pulled out a gun and opened fire, hitting both officers.

Officer Thomas returned fire, hitting Morris in the leg before the suspect took off running to a nearby convenience store, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Morris then exchanged gunfire with a third officer before he was ultimately taken into custody.

According to court documents, Morris had spoken with two witnesses prior to officers’ arrival and told them that “the police were trying to kill him,” WTAE reported.

The witnesses said the suspect then asked them to film him while he walked down Grandview Avenue in the direction of Versailles Avenue.

Officer Thomas, 35, was shot in the neck, hand, and face during the attack, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

He was flown to a hospital in Pittsburgh in serious condition and has since been released to continue his recovery at home, according to WTAE.

Officer Sluganski, 32, was taken to UPMC McKeesport, where he was pronounced dead.

Morris, who was listed in stable condition and is expected to survive, has been charged with criminal homicide, murder of a police officer in the first degree, and aggravated assault, among other offenses, WTAE reported.

Superintendent Kearns said police are familiar with Morris and have dealt with him “on past occasions.”

“This is a tragic loss for our department and our community,” Allegheny County Director of Communications Amie Downs told WTAE in the wake of Officer Sluganski’s murder. “We have lost a friend, a trusted colleague and an officer whose passion was providing service to the public.”

Officer Sluganski served with the Charleroi Regional Police Department prior to joining the MPD two years ago, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

He leaves behind his fiancé and his infant daughter.

“Yesterday began as any day would for Officer Sluganski. He left his family at home and came to work,” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko told reporters, according to CBS News. “Our officers – all officers – never know what they are walking into. There is no such thing as a typical call in today’s world. It is always the goal of a first responder to complete his or her daily duties and return home safely.”

“We should all give serious thought to what these families endure while their loved ones are out serving our community – hoping and praying that they never have to deal with what Officer Sluganski’s family experienced yesterday,” Cherepko added.

A fundraising campaign established to help Officer Sluganski’s family in the wake of their loss has raised more than $71,000 so far.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of McKeesport Police Department Officer Sean Sluganski, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Officer Sean Sluganski, your life mattered.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

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Written by Holly Matkin


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