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Pennsylvania troopers fatally shoot knife-wielding Washington County man

Megan Guza
| Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, 9:38 a.m.
Anthony Gallo
Anthony Gallo

A knife-wielding Washington County man ignored commands and advanced on police in the moments before a state trooper shot and killed him at a Canton mobile home Sunday, authorities said.

His family painted a different picture of 34-year-old Anthony Gallo's final moments.

“Police weren't even trying to defuse the situation,” said Robert Herring, Gallo's cousin. “I tried to let them know, ‘He's not going to hurt anybody. He's not a threat to anybody but himself at this point.' When they came in, they came straight in with (weapons) fully loaded.”

About 4 p.m., Gallo, armed with a knife, began going door-to-door and harassing neighbors in the Mark Avenue mobile home park where he'd been staying with his grandmother, according to Pennsylvania State Police.

He broke into a trailer, and his mother called for an ambulance, hoping to get mental health treatment for her son. One resident escaped the trailer before police arrived.

Two Pennsylvania State Police troopers arrived and ordered Gallo to drop the knife, according to Capt. Joseph Ruggery. He said troopers arrived in marked cruisers and were in full uniform.

“They were easily identifiable as police officers,” he said.

Herring said he was with his cousin throughout the ordeal.

“I was with him the whole time, during all of this,” Herring said. “If he was going to hurt anybody, he was going to hurt me. I was with him in the trailer where they shot him.”

Police said that Gallo ignored orders to drop the knife, and Ruggery said at least one witness heard him threaten to kill police. He retreated into the trailer and police followed him, not knowing whether anyone else was inside or whether Gallo had access to more weapons, he said.

Troopers followed him into a back bedroom, where Gallo turned toward troopers and moved toward them, Ruggery said. Gallo again ignored commands to drop the knife, he said.

One trooper fired several rounds, striking Gallo multiple times. He died at the scene.

Herring said Gallo suffered a head injury in a car crash in May and he'd begun deteriorating over the past several days. Gallo and his mother, Betty Gray, had spoken about mental health treatment just hours earlier.

Herring disputed the police claims that they announced themselves as officers and ordered Gallo to drop the knife. He said that as he and his family stood grieving, troopers congratulated each other on a job well done.

Investigators from the Pittsburgh-based state police barracks will investigate the shooting. Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone's office will evaluate the circumstances of the shooting, after which the Washington barracks will conduct an internal investigation.

Herring said Gallo loved listening to music and working on his motorcycle. He had a son.

“He was harmless. He never, ever in his life had been violent,” he said. “There was no reason to use deadly force. There was no reason to use live rounds right out of the gate.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, or via Twitter at @meganguzaTrib.

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