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Charges against home residents considered in Baldwin Borough friendly-fire case

By Stephanie Hacke and Matthew Santoni
Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Baldwin Borough police are consulting with the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office to determine if they will file charges in connection with a domestic call that led to a police shooting.

Sgt. Ralph Miller, 54, had another surgery at UPMC Mercy, Uptown, on Monday, a day after a fellow officer accidentally shot him in the back with an AR-15 rifle, police said. Investigators would not identify the officer who opened fire during a struggle to open the door of the home on Elmwood Drive early Sunday, or the boyfriend of the woman who called 911.

Chief Michael Scott said doctors were optimistic Miller would recover. “But it's going to be a long process,” he said.

Investigators are reviewing whether they can file charges against the residents of the home, Scott said. Charges could include child endangerment because the couple had two young girls in the house. Officers found OxyContin in the man's sock, and also are investigating whether he is permitted to have a gun, Scott said.

The District Attorney's Office referred comment to police.

The chief said he has no doubt the shooting was an accident.

“The investigation is not complete, but it certainly would lead to support the idea that the holding open of the door” and other issues at the scene likely led to the gun firing, Scott said. Police were trying to determine why the officer fired two rounds and why another officer fired a third shot into the house. Those officers were placed on leave.

Police union representatives referred comment to Scott.

Police initially treated the 3:45 a.m. call as a possible hostage situation, Scott said. The woman told dispatchers that her boyfriend was distraught and carrying a loaded shotgun. Officers closed the road and surrounded the house. The woman later said the man had unloaded the gun.

A man opened the door, only showing one hand containing a milk jug and refusing to show his other hand to Miller and the other officer at the door. He tried to shut the door on them, police said. Miller pushed the door open, and the officer with the AR-15 put his foot in the door. That's when the gun fired, hitting Miller at least once between his belt and bulletproof vest.

Scott said his officers receive frequent training, including in how to surround a home and respond to domestic calls.

Bethel Park police Chief John Mackey, chairman of the South Hills Area Council of Governments' chiefs committee, said most joint training has been geared toward responding to incidents in public areas such as schools.

Staff writer Margaret Harding contributed to this report. Stephanie Hacke and Matthew Santoni are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Hacke can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com. Santoni can be reached at 412-380-5625 or at msantoni@tribweb.com.

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