Lawrence County police officer killed in chase, crash
William J. “Jerry” McCarthy IV ended every conversation with the words, “God bless. Be safe,” said those who remembered the fallen Lawrence County detective and humane officer as a talented and patient family man.
McCarthy was killed on Thursday on his one-year anniversary as a part-time Shenango police officer when a New Castle woman with a suspended driver's license slammed her car into the side of McCarthy's cruiser during a police chase.
Kylee Barletto, 25, faces charges of manslaughter of a law enforcement officer, homicide by vehicle, fleeing an officer, reckless endangerment and other crimes. The wreck in New Castle also injured Shenango Officer Michael Lynch, who was driving the cruiser.
“This was a minor traffic violation,” Lawrence County District Attorney Josh Lamancusa said on Friday. “Yes, this person should not have been driving without a license, but the decision that was made last night cost someone their life. And something that would have amounted to a traffic ticket is now a homicide charge.”
Lamancusa described McCarthy, 60, of Grove City as a “jack-of-all-trades,” investigating a variety of crimes as a county detective and dealing with animal complaints as the county humane officer.
“There's truly no greater man,” Lamancusa said. “I aspire to be half the man that he was.”
McCarthy was married with three children and two stepchildren. Lamancusa said he hired him in February 2011 as a humane officer and a detective, because of his patience and love of animals.
“(McCarthy) was a talker,” said an emotional David Henderson, a New Castle attorney and board member for the Lawrence County Humane Society, which worked with McCarthy. “He loved to tell you every detail. He didn't do the job with a heavy hand. He worked with people.”
McCarthy was first sworn in as an auxiliary borough police officer in January 1974. He resigned Jan. 1, 1997, and then worked as a security officer for Grove City College.
Shenango Police Supervisor William Phillips issued a statement that read, in part, “His dedication to helping those in need is unsurpassed. We were all his ‘Lil Brothers.'”
McCarthy's partner, Lynch, 35, could not be reached. He was released from Jameson Hospital in New Castle. He had fractures to his right leg and hip and head injuries.
Lamancusa expected that Barletto would be released Friday from St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown. Barletto's family members could not be reached.
Flags flew at half-staff across Lawrence County, including at schools and government offices, marking McCarthy's death.
New Castle police spotted Barletto driving erratically on Jefferson Street. They tried to stop her when she turned on Division Street about 9:50 p.m., a police complaint said. Barletto's license was suspended because of a conviction for a failure to appear for a court hearing on a citation, Lamancusa said.
Court records show Lynch had cited her for driving with a suspended license on April 12. She pleaded guilty to various traffic offenses on seven occasions since May 2011, according to court records.
Barletto refused to stop and ran four stop signs, Lamancusa said, as two New Castle police cruisers pursued. McCarthy and Lynch responded to help. The Shenango officers were driving parallel to the chase in an attempt to get ahead of it when Barletto ran a stop sign and hit Lynch's cruiser on the passenger side, where McCarthy was sitting.
Lamancusa said it wasn't a high-speed pursuit, but he could not say what speed Barletto was traveling when she hit the cruiser. State police are investigating.
During an interview at St. Elizabeth Health Center early Friday, Barletto told police, “I did something stupid,” and didn't stop when New Castle police tried to pull her over because her license was suspended, according to a criminal complaint filed against her. Later in the interview, she said something was wrong with her vehicle and she couldn't stop.
Lamancusa said the car was being examined.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.