And has been acquitted:
Video has been released of a Pennsylvania police officer fatally shooting a man in the back as he lay face down on the ground with his hands visible.
The video emerged during the hearing of Officer Lisa Mearkle of the Hummelstown Borough Police Department, who was found not guilty of criminal homicide after shooting dead 59-year-old David Kassick earlier this year.
The footage shows the aftermath of Mearkle’s run in with Kassick over an expired inspection sticker. Kassick unfortunately chose to flee his vehicle and run home. He was later found to have alcohol and drugs in his system.
Mearkle gave chase and eventually was able to deploy a taser. The footage shows the officer repeatedly firing the taser into Kassick, by then on the ground.
While Kassick writhes in agony, Mearkle, clearly in a panicked rage, continues to yell “get on the ground.”
After a time she then shouts “Show me your hands!” Kassick is seen holding his hands forward and saying, “I am showing you.”
It appears from the footage that Kassick attempts to remove the taser barbs from his body, which seems to have been the prompt for the officer to shoot him.
The arrest affidavit stated:
“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, 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.”
The video was kept under wraps by Judge Deborah Curcillo, in order that officer Mearkle could receive a “fair trial”.
“This ruling only prevents the public from viewing the video and forming opinions about it prior to a constitutionally protected proceeding,” Curcillo wrote in her 11-page ruling at the time.
A Dauphin County jury acquitted Mearkle of third-degree murder and voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges, even after seeing the footage.
The jury was convinced that Kassick’s hands disappeared beneath his body enough times, which made it appear he was searching for a weapon.
After the verdict, Mearkle said she felt “relief” and tearfully said she was sorry the shooting had happened.
“it’s going to take a little bit for me to get back to my normal self,” she told reporters, adding “This has taken a toll on me that nobody understands.”
Certainly the family of David Kassick does not understand.
This represents yet another case of a routine traffic stop going horribly wrong. While Kassick should certainly not have fled, it seems that the use of deadly force by Mearkle was very excessive.