Senate OKs bill to rename ramp for fallen McKeesport police officer
In a unanimous vote of those present, the state Senate voted on Tuesday to send the House a resolution to rename an off-ramp from the McKeesport-Duquesne Bridge for a city police officer killed in the line of duty in 1993.
Senate Bill 1225, as sponsored by Sen. James Brewster, D-McKeesport, and co-sponsored by 13 colleagues, honors Frank Miller Jr.
If approved by the Senate, the roadway from the bridge to Route 148, also known as East Fifth Avenue and Lysle Boulevard, will be named the Officer Frank Miller Jr. Memorial Ramp.
“Frank Miller was a young man with a bright future who wanted to serve the public,” said Brewster, a former McKeesport councilman and mayor. “His life and his work should be remembered by the citizens of McKeesport and Pennsylvania.”
Miller, 25, served the police department for six months before his death on Nov. 10, 1993. He was walking a downtown beat patrol when he was shot with his own weapon during a scuffle. As Miller attempted to arrest reputed vagrant Andre Harper, then 39, for panhandling, Harper grabbed Miller's service revolver.
Harper sustained a hand wound. Miller was shot twice.
One shot to his chest was blocked by a bulletproof vest but the second was a fatal head wound.
Harper was convicted of first-degree murder in 1996, then retried after an appellate court ruled his original counsel didn't present evidence that he suffered from schizophrenia.
Harper was convicted again in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. Appeals were rejected by state appeals courts with the Supreme Court rejecting a petition for allowance of an appeal on April 30, 2008.
Miller originally was from Murrysville. In a Tribune-Review article noting the 10th anniversary of his death, family and friends described Miller as chivalrous.
They said he grew up idolizing former Murrysville police Chief Craig Thompson and Munhall police Sgt. Nick Havrilla. He voiced his intention to work in law enforcement while at Franklin Regional Senior High School, where he graduated in 1998.
In his memory, Miller's parents donated $1,000 to the Murrysville police department for a “Shoes Clues” program, to purchase identification tags parents could place on children's shoes.
As Brewster noted in his bill, Miller's parents donated money for the first bulletproof vest purchased under the Adopt-A-Cop program created by the Allegheny County Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Committee to provide small communities with vests.
Miller's parents made other donations over the years, from a scholarship in their son's name at Indiana University of Pennsylvania to gifts to the Optimist Club in McKeesport and a canine program sponsored by White Oak police.
At a police memorial in 2008 in Westmoreland County, McKeesport police Lt. Joseph Lopretto recalled that Miller, who was single, once offered to work all holiday shifts in place of Lopretto so he could be with his wife and children.
“He was a great guy,” Lopretto remembered. “There was nothing he wouldn't do for you.”
Senators from both parties and across Pennsylvania are numbered among the co-sponsors of SB 1225. Local co-sponsors include Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa Jr., D-Forest Hills, and Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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