This isn’t something you hear very often.
From ABC27 News:
A Hummelstown [PA] police officer has been charged with criminal homicide in the fatal shooting of a South Hanover Township man last month.
Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said following a state police investigation, he concluded 36-year-old Lisa Mearkle was not justified in using deadly force when she shot 59-year-old David Kassick.
This story is quite disturbing. On February 2, Mearkle attempted to stop Kassick for an expired inspection sticker. Instead of stopping, Kassick drove to his sister’s home and fled on foot.
Mearkle chased Kassick and shot him with her stun gun, shooting him in the back:
Kassick fell to the snow-covered ground and was lying face down when Mearkle ordered him to show his hands. She continued to use the stun gun while Kassick was on the ground, then shot him twice in the back, Marsico said.
Mearkle told investigators she shot Kassick because he would not show her his hands and she thought he was reaching into his jacket for a gun. She acknowledged that she did not see him display anything that could have been considered a weapon, however.
But the stun gun recorded portions of the encounter, and Marsico called it the strongest evidence in the case.
He said it appeared Kassick had been trying to remove stun-gun probes from his back.
“At the time Officer Mearkle fires both rounds from her pistol, the video clearly depicts Kassick lying on the snow covered lawn with his face toward the ground,” according to the arrest affidavit. “Furthermore, at the time the rounds are fired nothing can be seen in either of Kassick’s hands, nor does he point or direct anything toward Officer Mearkle.”
Kassick, in fact, was not physically aggressive at all, according to the criminal complaint filed by state police. He had no contact with Mearkle and was not facing her when she fired the first shot. She ordered him to show his hands and was still using the stun gun when she fired the second shot – while Kassick was still face-down on the ground.
Mearkle performed CPR on Kassick, but he died at the scene.
Mearkle is a 14-year veteran of the Hummelstown Police Department. She was arraigned before District Judge Lowell Witmer and jailed in the Dauphin County Prison without bail.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled April 20.
The police department issued a news release that said it had cooperated fully, calling the matter “an extremely difficult case for all involved.”
“We are servants of justice and must now allow the judicial process to conduct a fair and impartial review of the allegations that have been presented,” the news release stated.
The offense of criminal homicide encompasses a range of charges, from misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter to felony first-degree murder. Prosecutors often narrow the charge later in the process, about the time when defendants are formally arraigned.
Kassick’s family issued the following statement through their attorneys at the Slusser Law Firm:
The Kassick family is extremely pleased that the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office has elected to pursue homicide charges against the police officer responsible for David’s untimely death. The family would like to thank the Dauphin County district attorney and his staff as well as the Pennsylvania State Police for their hard work and impartial handling of this matter. Their courage in doing what is right and just in criminally charging this police officer is to be commended.
Davis is dead and he should not be. The family would like to respectfully remind the public that while David had his problems and struggled with addiction, he was loved and will be deeply missed. The family is comforted by the knowledge that the individual who caused David’s death will be held to answer for her cowardly and criminal behavior. This prosecution is a substantial step towards closure following a horrifying tragedy.
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