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Family of Pittsburgh homeowner killed by police tells mayor they're 'heart-broken'

Tom Fontaine
| Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, 5:30 p.m.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto answers questions from reporters Tuesday about his meeting with the family of a Larimer homeowner shot and killed by Pittsburgh police. Peduto was attending a talk hosted by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation.
Jeremy Boren | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto answers questions from reporters Tuesday about his meeting with the family of a Larimer homeowner shot and killed by Pittsburgh police. Peduto was attending a talk hosted by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.
Jeremy Boren | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto met privately Tuesday with family members and close friends of a Larimer man who was shot to death early Sunday by city police investigating a break-in at the man's home.

“Emotionally, they're heart-broken,” Peduto told reporters following an appearance at Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation in Downtown.

Two police officers responding to a burglary call in the 100 block of Finley Street said someone inside the home fired in their direction as they tried to enter the home. They returned fire and fatally shot a man later identified as Christopher Thompkins, 57, the homeowner.

After being awoken by an intruder in their second-floor bedroom, Thompkins' girlfriend said that Thompkins grabbed her pistol and chased after the intruder. Thompkins had been concerned about the safety of his mother, who was in a room on the first floor, she said.

“They shot the wrong guy. He didn't want to hurt no cops. He was trying to save his mother,” girlfriend Brenda Thompkins told the Tribune-Review on Sunday. A previous marriage between the two Thompkins ended in divorce, but they reconciled about seven years ago. She did not return a message Tuesday.

Peduto said he spent about a half-hour with family members and friends on Tuesday.

“Mr. Thompkins obviously had some issues in the past, but he had changed,” Peduto said, referring to a homicide conviction in connection with a 1994 incident. A judge vacated Thompkins' prison sentence of seven to 15 years in 1999.

“He had become the rock of this family, and this family had depended on him for so much,” Peduto said. “They lost somebody who they loved dearly, who was instrumental in their family, who was taking care of his mother. ... They're picking up the pieces literally and trying to move on.”

When asked if family members or friends had asked for any help, Peduto said, “I think they want the city to remember Mr. Thompkins for his entire life, for the care that he gave, for the love that he gave to his family. ... He was somebody who was able to turn his life around and be a caretaker to so many.”

The accused intruder, Juan Brian Jeter-Clark, 23, has been charged with trespassing. The officers involved in the shooting are on administrative leave, in accordance with department policy.

Peduto said he planned to meet Wednesday with acting police Chief Scott Schubert and Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich to get an update on the case.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at (412) 320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com

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