PA Hero Shoots Man In The Back

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Officer charged with killing unarmed driver lying facedown

Hummelstown, Pa., Police officer Lisa Mearkle walks into District Judge Lowell A. Witmer's office in West Hanover Twp., Tuesday, March 24, 2015, for her preliminary arraignment in connection with the shooting death of David Kassick during a traffic stop in February 2015. She was charged with criminal homicide, and is being held without bail over the Feb. 2 shooting. Investigators say Mearkle had incapacitated Kassick with a stun gun and he was on the ground when she shot him twice. She told investigators she thought he was reaching into his jacket for a gun.(AP Photo/PennLive.com, Mark Pynes)
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania police officer was charged Tuesday with criminal homicide after investigators concluded she shot an unarmed motorist in the back as he lay facedown after a traffic stop over an expired inspection sticker.
Authorities accused Hummelstown police Officer Lisa J. Mearkle of shooting 59-year-old David Kassick twice on Feb. 2 without legal justification. She was released on $250,000 bail.

Her attorney, Brian Perry, said Mearkle acted in self-defense, and he warned the case could cause police officers to hesitate in high-pressure situations.

“She felt like she had to do what she did,” Perry said. “This person was being commanded, begged, ‘show me your hands,’ and he kept going to his waist.”

Authorities said Mearkle had attempted to pull over Kassick for expired inspection and emissions stickers before he sped away. She caught up to Kassick near his sister’s home where he had been living for a short time.

He got out and ran before Mearkle incapacitated him with a stun gun, held in her left hand. He was on the ground when she shot him twice in the back with the gun in her right hand, police said.

Mearkle, 36, told investigators she fired because he would not show her his hands and she thought he was reaching into his jacket for a gun. Perry said she did not know Kassick before the shooting.

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.

The stun gun contained a camera that recorded audio and video from portions of the encounter, and District Attorney Ed Marsico called it the strongest evidence in the case.

He said it appeared Kassick had been trying to remove the stun-gun probe 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.”

Marsico said Mearkle waited 4 seconds between the first and second shots, and afterward performed CPR. He called the shooting “a tragedy for all involved.”

The district attorney said a syringe was found near Kassick’s body, and alcohol and unspecified drugs were found in his system.

Lawyers for Kassick’s family and estate issued a statement calling the charges “a substantial step toward closure” after what they described as a horrifying tragedy. They said he had worked as a Teamsters union laborer and struggled with addiction.

“Mr. Kassick is now dead as a result of a traffic stop, a routine traffic stop,” said one of the family’s attorneys, Christopher Slusser. “He should not be dead. He should not have died as a result of that traffic stop. And the manner in which he was shot — you can infer from that what you will.”

Hummelstown Police Chief Charles M. Dowell did not respond to a message seeking comment, but his 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.

Perry said Mearkle has been on the force for 15 years. She is married to a state trooper and has young children at home, he said. She was expected to be under electronic monitoring.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. It isn’t surprising that government keeps precise records of the each serf’s earnings for tax purposes while turning a blind eye to the number of people are killed each year by its law enforcement officers.

  2. Her attorney warned “the case could cause police officers to hesitate in high-pressure situations.” Wonderful, I guess anything short of immediately blowing someone away at the slightest provocation would threaten officer safety which is sacrosanct.

    In 2014 American police killed 1100 people, Canadian police killed 14 people, Chinese police killed 12 people, and German police didn’t kill anyone.

    • Marc,
      Can you provide any numbers for those same places, vis-a-vis civillian casualties from the Police?
      I have read in the US, we don’t keep records of that…. (And I wouldn’t trust records anyway, given the paranoia; a cell phone or “drop gun” could have a huge impact on skewing the statistics, making “jutifiable homicides” of outright murder.)
      But maybe Canada, China, or Germany…?

      • I’ll try to find the article where I found the statistics but it may take me a while. I can tell you right now, however, that the piece didn’t bother to categorize the killings as justifiable or other. I may also do some internet research on my own when time is available.

        • Hi Marc,

          An important point as I see it is that cops in other countries have to deal with violence and crime, too – yet manage to do it without shooting people to death as commonly as U.S. cops do.

          • eric, there are those countless videos of cops simply singling out a person for no obvious reason and pounding on them or just outright shooting and murdering them. I can think of at least one instance the cop shot a guy and when he was on the ground dying shouted “stop resisting” as if it were a great joke. How grand jury’s(oh, I know how, ex-cops, prosecutors and those clovers that can be counted on and are counted on to no-bill a cop for anything)can ignore these videos is well beyond my keen. Even if you are ex-whatever, a guy twirling around in a wheel-chair and simply being a maroon(mental problems and physical problems)in Dallas is simply gunned down and occifers claimed he was attacking with a weapon. They didn’t know it was all caught on a neighbor’s cam that faced the street. When the video was presented, the police chief responded with a new “rule” he invented that said no cop was required to respond to any question about any intervention or killing for 48 hrs. That gives him and prosecutors and his buddies time to dream up some story they all memorize and repeat even though there is video to show it’s a lie.

            • Many people simply think that we are here to always obey and that death is a perfectly reasonable punishment for not doing so or not doing so with enough vigor. This is what the cops leverage. These are the people who defend the cops and are I think are usually sorted out for grand juries and juries when cops do something.

              There’s a reason the schools and society in general have moved to a permanent childhood model. It keeps people in that mode of being obedient and seeing wrongness in anyone who dare not to. People are brought up that maturity is obeying authority rather than thinking for one’s self.

              There are other factors involved but ultimately, that’s how cops get away with it.

          • You can say that again. If my math is correct American police kill people at 379 times the rate of Chinese police. China has a population of 1.35 billion yet police there killed only twelve people in 2014.

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