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Man tied to Kotecki killing wants trial on drug, gun charges

Renatta Signorini
| Thursday, July 3, 2014, 10:27 p.m.
James 'Lutzo' Ameris III of Lower Burrell
James 'Lutzo' Ameris III of Lower Burrell

A Lower Burrell man accused of once possessing the handgun used to kill a police officer in 2011 wants to withdraw a no-contest plea he made in June.

Instead, James “Lutzo” Ameris III, 55, wants to go to trial, according to a motion his attorney filed on Wednesday in Westmoreland County.

A judge has not ruled on the request.

On June 3, Ameris pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a .22-caliber rifle and drugs in his residence in 2010. He is a convicted felon who for years has been banned from owning or having firearms.

The same day, he pleaded no-contest to nine drug or gun charges in three additional cases — including once possessing the .40-caliber Smith & Wesson pistol that Charlie Post used to kill Patrolman Derek Kotecki, 40.

Ameris maintains that he never had the pistol and doesn't know how Post got it, according to his attorney.

Also among the no-contest pleas was a charge that Ameris pressured a man into giving false or misleading testimony to prosecutors who were investigating a gun possession case against Ameris.

A sentencing hearing for all four cases scheduled for July 14 has been canceled.

Kotecki was killed in the parking lot of the Dairy Queen on Greensburg Road in Lower Burrell by Charlie Post on Oct. 12, 2011.

Police were looking for Post for shooting at a man in the Clarion Hotel parking lot in New Kensington 10 days earlier.

Police responded to the Dairy Queen after receiving a tip from Ameris that Post would be there. Police and prosecutors said Ameris drove Post to the Dairy Queen in a white Jeep at about 7 p.m. and went into the restaurant. Post stayed behind in the Jeep.

As Kotecki, armed with a rifle, approached the Jeep, Post fired repeatedly through a closed window, detectives said.

Kotecki was hit twice and died. The county coroner ruled that Post was committing suicide as he was being shot by a New Kensington police officer.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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