Trooper shot during Latrobe standoff in stable condition, suspect dead

| Friday, July 19, 2013, 7:03 a.m.

A bulletproof shield on a helmet might have saved a state trooper's life on Friday during a dramatic gunbattle with an armed robbery suspect who was fatally shot after a nearly 17-hour standoff in his Latrobe home, paralyzing part of the city and terrifying neighbors.

Trooper Brian King, 44, a 14-year veteran who has spent the past 12 years at the Belle Vernon barracks and longtime member of the Special Emergency Response Team, was in stable condition in UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, where he underwent “eye surgery,” according to Trooper Robin Mungo.

She said physicians don't know the extent of damage to the eye, but she expects he will make a full recovery.

Troopers stormed the Lloyd Avenue home of Scott M. Murphy, 46, at 11:41 a.m. after negotiations for his surrender broke down, said Capt. Stephen Eberle, Greensburg station commander.

“After (King) was shot, several members of the (team) returned fire,” Eberle said.

Murphy died from a gunshot. Police declined to say who fired the fatal shot, pending an investigation. An autopsy was completed Friday night, but the cause and manner of death are pending further investigation, Westmoreland County Deputy Coroner Joshua Zappone said.

Zappone said he does not anticipate any ruling on Murphy's death until Monday.

Neighbor Melissa Garcia said Murphy had been depressed since his wife of 21 years, Lisa, died the day after Christmas 2011.

“He had complications in his life, but he was dealing with those,” Garcia said. “The demons just got the best of him.”

Police investigating an armed robbery at 2:45 p.m. Thursday at Precision Care Pharmacy in Latrobe were led to Murphy's home when a witness gave them the license plate number of a getaway vehicle. Police believe Murphy stole “several hundred OxyContin (pills),” Eberle said.

Police attempted to arrest Murphy at 7 p.m.

Eberle said Murphy resisted arrest and ran to the upstairs of the house. Because troopers believed Murphy was armed, they removed other family members from the house, the captain said.

Family members told police there were “several handguns and long rifles” in the home, Trooper Brian Thomas said.

Troopers tried to negotiate with Murphy and lobbed tear gas into the home.

“Several options were used. None of those were effective,” Eberle said.

Murphy made one phone call to state police early Friday, then ended all communication.

Eberle said a robot was sent into the house at 5:56 a.m.

Negotiators used a bullhorn to taunt Murphy, breaking the silence in the neighborhood, which went dark Thursday evening when police had the power shut off.

“Nothing but a loser in there,” a state police negotiator called to Murphy.

Murphy's son Brandon tried to talk his father into surrendering, Garcia said.

“Brandon was on the bullhorn trying to get him to come out,” she said. “They (police) really tried.”

When troopers rushed the home, Murphy shot at King, and the ballistics shield on his helmet shattered, “possibly saving his life,” Eberle said.

Troopers returned fire and fled to their armored vehicle. Three crawled out of a second-floor window, and others helped the injured trooper to a waiting ambulance.

Garcia said she last spoke with Murphy three days ago.

“We were sitting around at his home ... talking about life. I was hoping this wasn't going to end like this,” she said.

Murphy's court records show one drug possession charge and numerous theft charges.

King, a West Chester, Ohio, native, was a defensive back on Penn State's undefeated 1994 Big Ten championship team and earned a degree in exercise and sports science.

Mungo, who has worked with King, called him “a hard-working guy ... a very good trooper ... what we call a high-speed guy.”

She said King is a longtime member of the emergency response team “(who) loves what he is doing and does it with a passion.”

She said she was among the family members and fellow troopers who talked with him before surgery and told him, “We're here for you. We're praying for you.”

Westmoreland County Coroner Kenneth Bacha said he will hold an inquest into the shooting.

“That's our policy,” he said.

Danielle Mathews and her daughter hunkered down on the floor of their nearby home when the gunfire started. Several shell casings littered her porch.

“I know his son. My daughter knows his son,” Mathews said. “When he started shooting back, we knew he was going to get killed. It's just sad.”

Neighbors said the power outage meant spoiled food and no air conditioning on one of the hottest nights of the summer.

Amber Nuttall stood in a shaded area Friday after getting home from an overnight nursing shift.

“I can't lay in this heat,” she said.

Jim Willforth had to make do for his two Siberian huskies, which normally sleep inside.

“They never said nothing about the power going out,” Willforth said.

Power was restored about 9 a.m. Friday.

Latrobe fire crews worked through the night, controlling traffic and fueling generators.

“We played firemen; we played counselors,” said Latrobe fire Chief John Brasile. “It's not hard work, but it sort of puts a strain on everybody.”

Staff writer Michael Hasch contributed to this report. Renatta Signorini and Richard Gazarik are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Signorini can be reached at 724-837-5374 or Gazarik can be reached at 724-830-6292.

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