Police: Marine fatally shot in Munhall burglary attempt
A Marine corporal who served in Afghanistan died in a gunbattle with a Munhall homeowner who caught him and another man burglarizing his garage early on Tuesday, police said.
Allegheny County police investigators said Andrew Stevens, 23, of Munhall was acting as a lookout for Shaun Conroy, 24, as they broke into the garage on East Eugene Avenue about 3:30 a.m. after spending time in a bar.
A neighbor called John Rozgonyi, 58, to tell him about the break-in. He called 911 and went outside, armed with a .380-caliber pistol, and told Stevens that police were on the way. Police said Stevens brandished a .45-caliber semi-automatic and told Rozgonyi, “Don't do anything stupid.”
A witness told police that Stevens fired first and Rozgonyi returned fire. The men exchanged 15 shots, Munhall acting police Chief Joseph Cibula said.
Stevens fired six shots, Sgt. Scott Scherer said. Rozgonyi wasn't hit, but county police said Stevens was hit multiple times.
“He's lucky to be alive,” Scherer said of Rozgonyi.
Police said Rozgonyi ran into the house, put the gun down and went back outside where he found Stevens lying in the alley near the detached garage. He died at the scene.
“He was genuinely distraught that he took someone's life,” Scherer said. “He was retreating as he was shooting.”
Rozgonyi, who detectives questioned and released, could not be reached. A woman who answered the door of his home said they neither she nor Rozgonyi wished to comment.
Conroy, who fled during the confrontation, returned upon hearing gunshots, and county police took him to headquarters for questioning. He told police that he and Stevens returned home from a bar about 3 a.m. and decided to go for a walk and smoke a cigarette, according to a criminal complaint filed against him. When they saw the garage, they agreed to go inside, but when Conroy heard the homeowner confront Stevens, he ran out of the back door.
Police charged Conroy of Munhall with burglary and conspiracy and took him to Allegheny County Jail, where he was awaiting arraignment. Records show he has arrests dating to 2009 for charges including robbery, defiant trespass and public intoxication.
Stevens' parents, Theodore and Linda Stevens, could not be reached for comment.
Stevens joined the Marines in 2009 and served in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom from July 29, 2011, to Oct. 13, 2011, according to Maj. Tammy L. Megow-Jones of the Marine Forces Reserve/Marine Forces North public affairs office.
Stevens received the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and other awards for his service, she said. He was in the Marines' individual ready reserve, which consists of Marines who are not serving in the selective reserve or on active duty, Megow-Jones said.
A search of documents on Stevens did not produce records of criminal activity in Allegheny County.
Police, who seized both weapons, did not file charges against Rozgonyi. County police said Rozgonyi owns the pistol legally and that the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office will review the case to determine whether charges should be filed.
University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris said the case sounds like classic self-defense.
“There's a shot fired first by the lookout. As long as that's true and he's the first person to use deadly force, the owner can use deadly force to defend himself,” Harris said. “You're not allowed to use deadly force to defend your property, but you can use it to defend yourself.”
Harris said Pennsylvania's stand-your-ground law allows people to use deadly force not just in their homes, but in any place they have a right to be. Before the law was instituted, people had an obligation to retreat if they could do so safely.
“The difference between Pennsylvania and Florida is that the person you say presents a deadly threat has to be armed, unlike Florida,” Harris said.
The incident prompted Pittsburgh Tactical Firearms owner Erik Lowry to tweet a special offer to Munhall residents. He said anyone with a Munhall identification can receive a discount on a firearm from his store at the Washington County Gun Show this weekend. Lowry was working out details, but said he would offer firearms close to “at cost” for residents.
“Once I found out it was a home invasion, we thought maybe we should do something for Munhall,” Lowry said. “If that guy who found them didn't have a gun, he'd be dead. I think it's important for everyone in the country to know how to use a firearm and how to defend themselves.”
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding @tribweb.com.