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Suspect in shootout with Pittsburgh police had threatened officer before

| Monday, March 18, 2013, 11:40 p.m.
Dante Bonner, suspect in police shooting
Dante Bonner, suspect in police shooting

A Homewood man threatened to “K.O.” a Pittsburgh police officer a month before he shot one, court records show.

Dante Bonner, 18, accused of shooting an officer on Sunday, was free on bail after a magistrate's ruling in a February case for which he was to appear in court on Wednesday. He remained hospitalized as a result of the shootout with police.

Records show that on Feb. 15 police Sgt. Cristyn Zett said Bonner backed his black Pontiac Grand Prix into her minivan in the West End. He fled, but she pursued him to exchange information. When she pulled him over, Zett told investigators, Bonner approached “in an aggressive manner” until she identified herself as a police officer.

He tried to go back to his car, but Zett said she grabbed his arm. They struggled before he freed himself and ran.

Investigators said Bonner's car “smelled like fresh marijuana.” A detective who caught Bonner about two blocks away discovered his license was suspended.

“If I would have known all this was gonna happen, I would have K.O.'d her; she just a girl,” the detective said Bonner told him.

Senior District Judge Eugene Zielmanski set Bonner's bail at $10,000 on Feb. 16 for charges of aggravated assault, resisting arrest, causing an accident with vehicular damage and four summary offenses. Bonner posted $1,000 that day.

Sgt. Michael LaPorte, president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, said he thinks a $10,000 bond for an aggravated assault case was too low.

“You have an individual fighting with an officer over a traffic accident,” LaPorte said. “There's definitely something wrong with the guy.”

Zielmanski did not return calls.

Factors such as criminal history, a person's track record of going to court, community ties, or whether he or she was on probation or parole when arrested play into a judge's decision, as does the seriousness of an offense, said Pittsburgh bondswoman Diane Tressa, who would not comment on Bonner's case.

“There is a scale they use to determine bond, but it's ultimately up to the judge,” she said. “They're the ones who have the last say.”

A manager at Allegheny County Bail Agency, which often recommends bail to judges, declined comment.

On Sunday, Pittsburgh police charged Bonner with attempted criminal homicide, assaulting a police officer, reckless endangerment and receiving stolen property. He's accused of shooting Officer Christopher Kertis twice in the left leg.

Kertis and his partner, Officer Charles Thomas, are on paid leave while the department investigates. Mike Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, declined comment.

The officers shot Bonner several times in the torso. He remained in stable condition in UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl lauded the officers for “keeping people safe.”

“It appears that officer acted properly in that case,” Raven-stahl said. “He was fired upon. From everything I know, (officers) followed protocol and did what was necessary.”

Bonner's criminal record dates to at least September 2005, when he was found guilty of criminal mischief, court records show. From October 2007 to December 2009, court records show he was found guilty of six summary offenses, including disorderly conduct, driving without a license and not wearing a seat belt. Details of the incidents were unavailable.

While free on bail for the February run-in with Zett, Bonner spent 17 days in the Allegheny County Jail for failing to pay $680 in fines from three traffic citations on Jan. 7, court records show. He was released on March 14.

Coraopolis District Judge Mary P. Murray said Bonner could pay the fines or go to jail, her staff said. Murray did not return calls.

Allegheny County Housing Authority police arrested Bonner on Oct. 24 for defiant trespass in McKees Rocks. District Judge Mary A. Cercone found him guilty on Dec. 12 and ordered him to pay a fine.

Pittsburgh police Officer Paul G. Abel Jr. issued Bonner a citation on Dec. 21 for disorderly conduct, to which he pleaded guilty on Feb. 27 before Judge James J. Hanley Jr., who ordered Bonner to pay $262. Records show he hasn't paid $189 of that amount.

Adam Brandolph and Margaret Harding are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach Brandolph at 412-391-0927 or Reach Harding at 412-380-8519 or Staff writer Bob Bauder contributed.

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