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Man accused of shooting 1 North Braddock cop, firing on another

| Wednesday, June 13, 2018, 4:09 a.m.
A North Braddock police sergeant shows the bandage on his arm after he was shot while responding to a reported abduction late Tuesday night, June 12, 2018.
A North Braddock police sergeant shows the bandage on his arm after he was shot while responding to a reported abduction late Tuesday night, June 12, 2018.

A man accused of shooting two North Braddock police officers Tuesday told investigators he fired because he thought the officers were burglars, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jrsaid.

Dejon Howard, 20, fired blindly through a closed front door of a vacant house at 13th Street and Franklin Avenue in North Braddock that he was occupying without permission, Zappala said.

"They were shot in the body armor that they fortunately were wearing last night," Zappala said. The officers have not been identified. "The guy who shot them has confessed to shooting them. His rationale was he thought somebody was breaking into this abandoned house, which he has no right to be there anyway."

Howard is being held in Allegheny County Jail awaiting arraignment on charges related to the shooting. Zappala said he believed the suspect has a criminal history that prohibits him from possessing a firearm

"We're going through the charges now," the DA said. "I don't believe that he's a person who can possess either, which is another problem for him."

Police went to the house around 10:45 p.m. after a woman told them that two of her teenage sons were possibly being held hostage there in connection with stolen drugs and money.

Zappala said police knocked on the door without identifying themselves as officers and Howard began shooting.

One officer was shot in the chest, but a protective vest stopped the bullet. He also suffered a cut to his forearm, possibly from a bullet or flying glass.

The second officer was also struck in the vest, according to Zappala. County police reported he suffered a cut to his scalp, but were unsure whether he was cut by a bullet or flying glass.

The officer who was struck in the chest returned fire before both found cover, county police said.

Back-up officers responding to the house saw a man running from the building, but they could not catch him.

About two hours later, Port Authority police officers saw a man matching the description of the suspected shooter near Rankin's Hawkins Village Housing Complex and took him into custody. He was later identified as Howard.

The county SWAT team entered the vacant house and found two people. Police determined they weren't involved in the shooting.

Police also determined there was never an abduction. The teenage boys reported missing by their mother were found.

"There is no reason to believe there was a plan to ambush the officers or lure them to the vacant structure," county police Lt. Andrew Schurman said in a news release.

County police say Howard is "solely responsible" for shooting at the North Braddock officers.

County police did not identify the North Braddock officers, but they said they were not seriously injured.

In addition to attempted homicide, Howard also is charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, trespassing and weapons violations.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Allegheny County Police Tipline at 833-255-8477. Callers can remain anonymous.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, or on Twitter @BCRittmeyer.

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