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Expert: Baldwin officers faced tough decision in shooting incident

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Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A criminal justice expert said a rush to secure the scene of a reported domestic disturbance likely contributed to the friendly-fire shooting of a Baldwin Borough police officer early Sunday.

“It sounds like they kind of rushed into this thing, and that created a crossfire situation,” said Joseph Giacalone, a former police detective who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

“But as cops, we're trained to go toward things, and that's part of the problem. When everyone else is running right, we've got to go left,” Giacalone said.

Allegheny County police said a woman told 911 dispatchers that her boyfriend was distraught and carrying a loaded shotgun around the house that they share with their two children.

At the home, the man refused officers' repeated orders to show his hands, then tried to shut the door on the officers, police said. Baldwin Sgt. Ralph Miller and a fellow officer stopped the door from slamming shut and then shots rang out. Miller was struck at least once in the back.

Admitting that he might be “Monday morning quarterbacking,” Giacalone said that if officers had determined that no one's life was in immediate danger, they could have let the door close and negotiated with the man through the door or by phone.

Giacalone conceded that that's a tough call to make.

“It's one of those situations where you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't,” Giacalone said.

Ka'Sandra Wade, 33, of Larimer was shot to death by her boyfriend after she called 911 for help on New Year's Eve, police said. Responding officers left the home without speaking to Wade after Anthony L. Brown, 51, of Point Breeze told them that there was no problem and refused to let them in.

During a Jan. 2 standoff, Brown admitted killing Wade, then committed suicide, police said.

Friendly-fire shootings are rare. Four officers were accidentally shot and killed as a result of crossfire or other firearm accidents in 2011, according to the latest FBI data.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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