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Officer shoots, kills Penn Hills man after domestic dispute

| Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, 1:15 p.m.
Penn Hills Police shot and killed Charles Hull, 56, of Penn Hills, early Monday. Police said they fired because Hull pointed a rifle at them.

A Penn Hills police officer faced down an angry man aiming a rifle at him, shooting and killing him outside his house on Monday, the day the man was due in court, police said.

Charles Hull, 56, of Penn Hills, died at UPMC Mercy hospital, Uptown, at 7:46 a.m., about an hour and 20 minutes after a Penn Hills patrolman shot him three times on the porch of his home along Calvin Street. County police declined to identify the officer.

Hull's longtime girlfriend, Yolanda Hornick, 57, called 911 at 6:20 a.m. to report her live-in boyfriend was outside with a .30-30-caliber rifle and that she was afraid he would kill himself, county police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said.

Eight Penn Hills officers responded; two blocked the street, and three flanked either side of the house. As police arrived, Hull became agitated, accused his girlfriend of calling police and pushed her into a closet. She escaped and ran outside barefoot, Moffatt said.

An officer turned his back to the door for a few seconds to grab Hornick, then turned around to find Hull at the door holding the rifle, “aiming it downward at the officer,” Moffatt said.

“The officer, being well-trained, raises his patrol rifle and fires three times, and Mr. Hull goes down at that time,” Moffatt said. “Yolanda tells us she heard the officer say several times, ‘Put the gun down. Put the gun down. Put the gun down,' before he fires.”

Moffatt described the Penn Hills officer as a veteran. He said county police will turn the case over to the district attorney's office to determine whether the shooting was justified.

“That's the district attorney's call,” Moffatt said.

Hull had a rifle with a scope. The officer had a semi-automatic patrol rifle.

Penn Hills Chief Howard Burton, who said he was at a funeral when reached by phone, referred comment to Allegheny County police. Several neighbors declined to comment.

Court records show Hull had six arrests dating to 1977, including three since February 2012. At least four of the cases involved drug charges.

Attorney R. Blaine Jones, who represented Hull in a 2012 drunken driving case, said Hull was always respectful to him.

“I represented Mr. Hull in the past, and he was always very respectful in my professional dealings with him,” Jones said. “I'm shocked by today's news.”

He was scheduled for a formal arraignment on Monday at the Allegheny County Courthouse on eight charges, including aggravated assault by vehicle while drunken driving and cocaine possession, stemming from his most recent arrest on Oct. 12.

Police said Hull had a blood alcohol content of 0.275 percent when he crashed a 2001 Toyota 4Runner head-on into a pickup truck along Penn Avenue in Point Breeze just after midnight. Paramedics took the driver of the pickup to UPMC Presbyterian with broken ribs and a broken hip. Hull had bloody gums from the airbag deployment but was otherwise not injured. As paramedics attempted to examine him, Hull staggered around with a prescription bottle in his hand. Tests showed the bottle contained cocaine.

The yellow bungalow Hull and Hornick shared is barely visible from Calvin Street, concealed by a hill on the south side of the quiet road. Investigators remained in the home until late Monday morning. Hornick told police she was in bed sleeping when a gunshot rousted her. Police said Hull fired one time inside the house before police arrived.

Tom Fontaine and Adam Brandolph contributed. Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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