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Jurors hear real-time 911 calls, police dispatches before fatal shootings

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By Adam Brandolph
Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Penn Hills paramedic Paul Huska paused for an emotional breath on Friday before telling an Allegheny County jury how he discovered his friend, Officer Michael Crawshaw, dead behind the wheel of his patrol car Dec. 6, 2009.

“There was a cavernous hole in the left side of his face and under the left eye,” Huska said. The Penn Hills police officer “was motionless. He looked lifeless. He just had this blank mannequin look to his face.”

Police said Ronald Robinson, 35, of Penn Hills sprayed Crawshaw's car with a dozen rounds from an AK-47 rifle after fatally shooting Danyal Morton, 40, inside a nearby home over a $500 drug debt.

Huska pronounced Crawshaw dead at the scene on Johnston Road.

Deputy District Attorney Mark Tranquilli is seeking a first-degree murder conviction and the death penalty.

Defense attorney Veronica Brestensky told jurors this week that Robinson does not deny the killings, but she is asking for a second-degree murder verdict.

During the second day of testimony in Robinson's trial, county detectives played a real-time overlay of Morton's call to 911, a recording of police dispatch transmissions, and neighbor's calls to 911.

• 8:22 p.m.: Morton called 911 from the home's second-floor bathroom.

• 8:23 p.m.: Police officers are dispatched to 201 Johnston Road, Penn Hills.

• 8:23-8:24 p.m.: Shots are heard inside the house.

• 8:24 p.m.: 911 dispatchers inform police of the gunfire.

• 8:25 p.m.: Crawshaw informs other officers that he is turning onto Johnston Road.

Fourteen seconds later, dispatchers hear more gunfire over Morton's open telephone line. A minute later, the 911 emergency center received a call from a neighbor reporting nine or 10 shots fired.

Thomas Morgan, a scientist for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office who specializes in firearms, said Crawshaw fired two rounds from his Glock semi-automatic pistol before he was fatally shot while sitting in his car awaiting backup.

Morgan said he found two spent shell casings and Crawshaw's service weapon in the center console of the officer's car.

After Huska pronounced both Crawshaw and Morton dead, another paramedic said he saw some activity on Crawshaw's heart monitor. Paramedics tried to revive him en route to UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland.

Brestensky, who declined to cross-examine most of the witnesses who testified on Friday, asked Huska whether there was anything more that paramedics could have done to save Crawshaw, considering how severely he was wounded.

“There was absolutely nothing they could have done,” Huska said.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Monday with Morgan's continued testimony.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927or

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