McKeesport man held on assault charges
Charges have been held against a McKeesport man who was allegedly grazed by a bullet during a struggle with a police officer when the officer's gun discharged.
Andre Lamiont Johnson, 25, is charged with two felony counts of aggravated assault and 14 other criminal charges in connection with the incident, which occurred in the 1600 block of Beech Street on March 9 when police stopped his vehicle for a lighting violation.
At a preliminary hearing before McKeesport Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi on Monday, McKeesport police officer Robert Eastman said Johnson behaved erratically during the early morning traffic stop.
Eastman said Johnson first drove several blocks on Bailie Avenue with police following his Ford Explorer before turning onto Beech Street and stopping. After he stopped, Eastman said Johnson remained in his vehicle with his foot on the brakes, refusing to comply with the officer's verbal orders to put the vehicle in park.
The officer said Johnson eventually did take the vehicle out of gear, after being ordered to do so about 10 times, but continued to behave suspiciously. Eastman said for a time, Johnson would not respond to an order to roll down the driver's side window. When Johnson did lower the window, he only put it down about 3 inches, according to Eastman.
Eastman said he could smell marijuana and saw a joint inside the vehicle.
The officer said he ordered Johnson to put his hands on the steering wheel but Johnson kept reaching toward his right side.
Eastman said he drew his service pistol and told Johnson, “If you pull something from this vehicle that can hurt me, I will shoot you.”
Still inside the vehicle, Johnson placed a call on his cellphone.
“I could hear screaming but I couldn't make out what he was saying,” said Eastman.
About the time a backup police unit arrived on the scene, Eastman said Johnson complied with an order to give him the keys to his vehicle, passing them through the slightly lowered window.
Eastman said he attempted to use the keys to open Johnson's car door several times but could not because Johnson kept locking the door again from the inside.
Finally, after five or 10 attempts to open the door, the officer said Johnson pushed the door open forcefully and jumped out.
“It was unexpected. He went from acting in fear to barreling out at me,” Eastman testified. Eastman said he was hit in the midsection by the door then by Johnson.
Eastman said he was still holding his pistol when he and Johnson struggled and fell to the ground. As they fell, the gun discharged. Eastman said the bullet hit the asphalt, but Johnson, who did not testify Monday, said after court that the bullet grazed the top of his head.
Though he was not seriously injured, Johnson said he bled and had to receive medical treatment.
“It's a lot of trauma,” he said, adding that he eventually will get to present his side of the story. “The truth will prevail.”
Johnson's attorney Elbert R. Gray raised questions about how police reported the incident.
Eastman testified that his immediate supervisor informed McKeesport police Chief Bryan Washowich that his gun had been discharged and Allegheny County District Attorney's office had been notified of the incident.
Johnson posted $5,000 bail a day after the incident and was released from jail. He is awaiting formal arraignment on June 23.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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