McKeesport man held for charges from fire that injured officer
By Jennifer R. Vertullo
Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 4:31 a.m.
McKeesport police Lt. Joe Lopretto still is recovering from injuries sustained during a house fire in January. He was in district court Monday when Gordon Brown, the man accused of causing Lopretto's injuries, was held on all charges.
“The first thing I would like to do is apologize that you got injured,” Brown, who represented himself, told Lopretto at a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi. “My house was on fire. My mother was crying. My cats were burning up.”
Brown is charged with aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, obstructing the administration of law or government and disorderly conduct.
He said he felt it necessary to apologize for his actions, even if the statement would be admissible as evidence at his trial in Common Pleas Court, scheduled for Aug. 2.
“I don't feel that aggravated assault against a police officer is an appropriate charge,” Brown told the judge. “Maybe disorderly conduct, because I was out of order.”
Brown's residence at 431 Long Run Road was burning on Jan. 30 when Lopretto arrived on scene. Brown was standing in the front doorway, attempting to douse a fully involved blaze with a garden hose.
Lopretto told Brown firefighters were on their way and ordered him to stand with neighbors as authorities evaluated the scene.
According to a criminal complaint, McKeesport police Asst, Chief Tom Greene also had ordered Brown to keep his distance from the home.
“Greene noticed the fire department personnel were having to move around Brown, who had only moved a few feet ... (Greene) pulled Brown out of the way of the fire personnel and ordered him to leave the area for a second time,” the report indicated.
Lopretto testified that Brown obeyed the orders until he heard his mother shout that a cat was trapped inside. When Brown ran toward a rear window of the house, Lopretto called for him to stop, and followed him.
“There was a slime on the deck, and my feet went out from under me,” Lopretto said. “My head hit, and I don't remember too much after that.”
Lopretto stammered through his testimony, the result of a severe concussion that still is affecting his speech and vision.
“My speech has gotten a lot better,” he said. “At the beginning, I couldn't get words out.”
Lopretto takes part in daily therapy, including vision and vestibular regimens. He has taken several medications and is not permitted to drive. He has torn muscles in his right shoulder, an injury that cannot be addressed at this stage of his recovery from the head injury.
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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