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Off-duty state trooper shoots, kills man with gun at his Butler Co. home

| Saturday, June 7, 2014, 8:03 a.m.

Moments before his neighbor, an off-duty state trooper, shot and killed him, a Butler Township man fled his home while threatening to jump from a bridge, police said on Saturday.

Kristopher Barkus, 25, ignored Trooper Brian Knirnschild's orders to drop a weapon he pointed at the trooper, who was standing on the front porch of his home with his wife and young children looking on in horror, state police Lt. Eric Hermick said.

“He fired to protect himself and his family,” Hermick said.

Barkus died at 10:30 p.m. Friday in Allegheny General Hospital, North Side. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death a homicide, saying that Barkus died of a gunshot to the trunk.

Attempts to reach Knirnschild and the Barkus family were unsuccessful.

Neighbor Mike Cajka said he was able to speak to Knirnschild after the shooting and that he appeared calm. He said the Barkuses “are an outstanding family” in the September Drive neighborhood, mostly populated with older residents.

In the aftermath of the shooting, “there were more troopers here than I've ever seen in my life,” Cajka said.

Knirnschild, 27, remains on paid administrative leave while state police investigate the shooting. Hermick said police would consult with the Butler County District Attorney's Office. District Attorney Richard Goldinger did not return a message.

“He's been a commendable trooper,” Hermick said of Knirnschild, adding that he has worked as a patrol officer for about two years.

Hermick said that Knirnschild did not use a department-issued firearm in the shooting, which was the second confrontation between the men recently.

Knirnschild moved into the neighborhood recently, he said. Within the past few weeks, Barkus went to Knirnschild's home, and the trooper ordered him to leave, Hermick said. Hermick did not know the circumstances surrounding that incident.

Butler Township police charged Barkus with harassment for a May 17 incident, but it wasn't clear if that incident involved Knirnschild.

Shortly before 8:40 p.m. Friday, Hermick said, one of Barkus' family members dialed 911, reporting that he had threatened to kill himself and left the house. He ended up at Knirnschild's home and pointed a weapon.

Barkus' brother Bobby drove his wounded brother to Butler Memorial Hospital, Hermick said. Kristopher Barkus was flown to Allegheny General Hospital, where he died, the medical examiner's office said.

Bobby Barkus cooperated with investigators, Hermick said, and he has not been charged.

In an interview with WPXI-TV, Barkus' parents, Bob and Pam, said their son suffered from depression and other recent health problems. They said he approached Knirnschild about a month ago, asking him to arrest him and put him in jail.

“We, and especially my wife, have been dealing with this for so many years, his health problem, trying to get him squared away,” Bob Barkus said.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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