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Cornered fugitive kills Lower Burrell officer, dies himself

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By Chuck Biedka and Rossilynne Skena,
Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
 

A wanted man shot and killed Lower Burrell police Patrolman Derek Kotecki at the city's Dairy Queen restaurant Wednesday evening as police tried to arrest him.

Kotecki, an 18-year veteran of the force, was shot by fugitive Charles A. Post, 33, of Lower Burrell, authorities said.

Kotecki, 40, was Lower Burrell's K-9 officer.

Post also died in the gunfire, but it could not be definitively determined if other officers shot Post or if he committed suicide.

Early today, Lower Burrell police Chief Tracy Lindo and Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said police had information that Post was going to be at the Dairy Queen.

According to their account:

Several officers were converging on the scene, and Kotecki was among the first to arrive.

Post saw the officers approaching and he stepped out of a Jeep he was driving and opened fire. Kotecki was felled by the gunfire.

Post tried to escape, but came to a fence that he could not scale.

He turned back toward the police officers and shot himself. At the same instant, the officers fired at Post, too.

Police knew that Post was dangerous. New Kensington Detective Sgt. Dino DiGiacobbe said last night that a Lower Burrell detective had reached Post by cell phone after the Oct. 2 incident for which Post was sought and tried to convince Post to turn himself in.

DiGiacobbe said that Post responded by telling the officer that his gun was loaded with 14 bullets -- "Thirteen for the cops and one for me."

Chief Lindo said he met with the families of both his fallen officer and Post. He asked for prayers to be said for all of those who are affected.

The somber aftermath

Shortly after the 7 p.m. shootings, the area around Dairy Queen on Greensburg Road (Route 366) was taped off.

Dozens of police officers were at the scene, many hugging each other for comfort. Several were in tears.

Police responded from as far away as West Leechburg, Vandergrift and Delmont.

When Kotecki's body was removed from the scene at about 11 p.m., it was escorted by a line of police cars with their emergency lights flashing, both leading and trailing the coroner's van. Other than the hum of the generators that powered portable lights, the scene all night was silent despite the dozens of people there.

Shortly after the incident, Kotecki's K-9 SUV was in the left side of the parking lot at 305 Greensburg Road with the driver's door open, his sheet-covered body on the asphalt a few feet away.

Alicia Heymers, co-owner of New Ken Auto-Motive, across the road from the Dairy Queen, said she was cleaning in her business when she heard a commotion outside.

"I heard banging and yelling," Heymers said.

She exited the business and saw several police officers with their weapons drawn, firing toward a wooded area behind the restaurant. She saw a couple of shots fired but heard many more.

"There were a lot of shots -- at least six or eight," Heymer said. "I thought (they were shooting at) a bear until I heard them yelling, ‘Get down, get down!' "

Post, a member of Burrell High School Class of 1996, had been the subject of a manhunt since Oct. 2 when he fired gunshots at his boss, a contractor, outside of the Clarion Hotel in New Kensington.

In that incident, Terry Janosky, 44, of New Kensington, said he called Post that Sunday afternoon and Post began screaming at him. Janosky said he went to the Clarion to meet Post, but when he pulled up in his truck, Post opened fire.

There were three bullet holes on the driver's side of Janosky's truck from a large caliber handgun, including one right above the driver's side window.

Police recovered 12 shell casings at the scene.

LengTHy police record

Police agencies across the Alle-Kiski Valley -- including New Kensington, Lower Burrell, Allegheny Township, Harrison, Springdale Township, Indiana Township, Tarentum and Plum -- have charged Charles Post with a slew of minor offenses over the past 17 years, including numerous incidents of traffic violations, disorderly conduct and harassment. Of the 50 different incidents, here are some examples:

• Oct. 2011: New Kensington police charged Post with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, theft, reckless endangerment and other charges.

• Dec. 2010 : Lower Burrell police charged Post with possession of drug paraphernalia and six summary driving citations. All charges except for paraphernalia and driving with suspended license were withdrawn. He failed to appear for a guilty plea before Judge John Blahovec on Oct. 7, 2011.

• March 2002: Lower Burrell charged Post with aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct. An arrest warrant issued in 2005 because he tested positive for opiates and cocaine, a violation of his parole or bail.

• Oct. 2001: Lower Burrell police -- Kotecki -- cited Post for criminal mischief. He was found not guilty.

• Aug. 1999: Leechburg charged Post with driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license and another traffic citation. He pleaded guilty to drunken driving, while the other charges were withdrawn.

• Aug. 1999: Lower Burrell police cited Post for a traffic violation.

• April 1997: Lower Burrell charged Post with drunken driving and a summary count of buying alcohol as a minor.

Liz Hayes and Eric Felack also contributed.

 

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