DA: Sunbury acting chief of police justified in shooting
SUNBURY - Northumberland County District Attorney Ann Targonski has determined the city's acting police chief was justified in shooting a Sunbury man who came after him with a knife despite being hit three times with a Taser and repeatedly being warned to drop the weapon.
An extensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding the July 8 shooting of Erick R. Trometter, 22, by Acting Police Chief Brad Hare revealed Trometter aggressively approached the officer with a large fillet knife and told the officer he wasn't going back to prison.
"I have thoroughly reviewed the materials provided to me by the state police and have carefully considered the officer's action in light of the presence of third parties, the aggressive and erratic comments and actions of Trometter. It is evident that the officer was justified in his actions, particularly in light of the circumstances as described by the witnesses," Targonski said in a statement issued Friday night.
Authorities had previously released few details about the shooting along Mile Post Road near Shikellamy Avenue in Upper Augusta Township just outside the city limits.
The district attorney said an investigation into the shooting is continuing and a decision on filing criminal charges against Trometter will be made in the future. Trometter has already been charged by Sunbury police with assaulting his grandmother, Amanda Trometter, 67, at their residence about two hours before the shooting.
Erick Trometter, who was initially listed in critical condition following the shooting, was in fair condition at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, Friday.
Search for suspect
Targonski said the investigative report was completed by Trooper Ronald Zanella of state police at Stonington and involved copies of calls to emergency services, forensic unit evidence, interviews with multiple witnesses, written statements of witnesses as well as statements from Trometter and Hare.
In her statement, Targonski said Sunbury police were looking for an individual involved in the assault of Amanda Trometter, who went to the offices of the Northumberland County Area Agency on Aging for assistance.
Agency personnel then called police on behalf of Amanda Trometter, who identified her grandson as the person who assaulted her.
Officers then conducted a search for Trometter, who was described to them as being 6-foot, 3 inches tall and weighing approximately 390 pounds.
Hare eventually located the suspect, who falsely identified himself as Robert Hoffman. The acting police chief then sought additional information from other Sunbury police officers who were with the assault victim. Hare pulled off the road and asked Trometter to wait. The officer subsequently received information that the clothing of the suspect matched the clothing of the individual he had stopped.
Hare then asked Trometter for his name again and said he was looking for a man who assaulted a 67-year-old woman earlier in the morning in Sunbury.
'Not going back to jail'
According to the police report, Trometter became nervous and agitated and refused to comply with a request by Hare to pat down Trometter for safety reasons.
Trometter began to walk toward the rear of Hare's police cruiser and began shaking. Hare observed a wooden handled object protruding from Trometter's pocket.
When the officer attempted to take the object, Trometter pushed him away and pulled out a large fillet knife with a wooden handle. Hare backed away, readied his Taser and instructed Trometter to drop the knife.
The report states Trometter refused to comply with the officer's repeated directives to drop the knife. Hare then deployed the Taser, which did not stop Trometter. Trometter continuously stated he was not returning to jail.
The officer deployed the Taser two more times with little effect on Trometter. Hare continued his demands for Trometter to drop the knife, but Trometter didn't comply, prompting the officer to take out his service gun.
Trometter approached the officer, who began to circle around and away, and was holding the knife in an upward position and facing the officer.
The officer again advised Trometter to drop the knife or he was going to use his gun. Trometter repeatedly said, "I don't care. I am not going back to jail." Trometter continued his aggressive approach toward Hare, prompting the officer to shoot him in the leg.
Immediately following the shooting, another officer arrived on scene and a request for expedited emergency medical services (EMS) personnel was made. Hare and the other officer provided basic medical assistant until EMS arrived on scene.
The state police report said the incident was witnessed by three individuals in nearby vehicles who had stopped after observing the encounter between Hare and Trometter.
One of the witnesses was close enough and heard the verbal exchange between Trometter and Hare and saw Trometter holding a knife in his hand. The witness called emergency services during the encounter to ask for assistance for the officer, who was alone at the time.
Use of force justified
Targonski said the use of deadly force by a police officer is permitted when he or she believes such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to themselves or others, or to prevent the escape of a person who has committed a forcible felony.
"In this case, the officer believed that the individual was a danger to him as well as others, including witnesses in the area," Targonski said. "Additionally, the officer was aware that Trometter was wanted for questioning in connection with the assault of a 67-year-old woman. The officer repeatedly requested Trometter to consent to a pat down search and after Trometter pulled out the knife, commanded him to drop the weapon he was wielding."
The district attorney said none of the directives affected Trometter, who according to witnesses, held an aggressive stance.
Targonski added, "Trometter's statements that he was not going to return to jail, his aggressive behavior and repeated advances toward the officer justified the use of deadly force. Further, Trometter was believed to be the individual involved in an aggravated assault on a 67-year-old woman and Trometter was seeking to avoid arrest in that matter by providing a fictitious name."