Pittsburgh man killed, state drug agent wounded in Ross shootout
An undercover officer with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office was wounded early Tuesday afternoon in a shooting at a Ross shopping plaza that left the suspect in a drug investigation dead, police said.
The narcotics agent was conducting a drug sting in the parking lot in front of the Big Lots store at the McKnight Northland plaza on McKnight Road when he was shot twice by the target of the investigation, Allegheny County police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said.
The officer, whose name was not released, was recovering in the hospital from the non-life-threatening gunshot wounds, McDonough said.
“We’re happy to say he’s in stable condition, he’s conscious and alert and he’s talking to his family as we speak,” McDonough said shortly before 4 p.m. outside the Big Lots while investigators snapped photos, marked evidence and examined the crime scene.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro traveled to Pittsburgh to visit with the officer’s family at Allegheny General Hospital for about 90 minutes Tuesday night, while the officer was in surgery, Shapiro told reporters shortly before 8 p.m.
“I expect, based on the information I received from both the family and from officials at the hospital, that he will make a full recovery,” Shapiro said.
Suspect killed has history of drug, assault charges
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the suspect who died as Omari Ali Thompson, 31, of Pittsburgh.
Thompson has a history of criminal charges in Allegheny County dating to 2007 related to firearms, assault, robbery and selling and drug possession in Allegheny County, court records show.
In November 2010, Thompson pleaded guilty to assault by a prisoner.
In October 2011, he pleaded guilty to manufacturing or possessing with intent to deliver a controlled substance and was sentenced to two ½ years in prison.
In August 2016, Thompson pleaded guilty to drug charges as well as possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and was sentenced to nearly 10 months in prison followed by three years of probation and random drug testing.
The Medical Examiner described the incident as involving gunshots fired at “narcotic agents during a controlled drug transaction and apprehension investigation,” after which “agents returned gunfire.”
For several hours, police cordoned off a large section of parking lot, where Thompson’s body was under a white sheet near two bullet-riddled vehicles.
‘This is dangerous work’
The controlled drug buy took place in the bustling shopping plaza that includes a child’s day care, fitness center, dance studio and Subway restaurant.
When pressed about why the sting was taking place there, Shapiro said he would defer to Allegheny County police for details but that narcotics task force agents often have limited choices in where to conduct such operations.
“Look, this work is dangerous work, and we don’t get to dictate the terms of every location where we meet,” Shapiro said. “In this case, understand, this individual decided to discharge his weapon into an agent of the Office of Attorney General. He made the decision to make this a dangerous moment. He made that decision to take another person’s life.”
The drug sting, which McDonough referred to as a “buy-bust operation,” was underway shortly before 1 p.m.
At 1:07 p.m., authorities received reports of shots fired.
By 1:15 p.m., Thompson — the target of the drug bust — was pronounced dead “after an exchange of gunfire with officers involved in the operation,” McDonough said.
Allegheny County’s homicide detectives are investigating.
“We have asked the Allegheny County Police Department to assume this investigation to ensure complete independence from my office and to ensure that a separate law enforcement agency is looking into this,” Shapiro said.
Officials did not immediately provide further details on what sparked the exchange of gunfire. They did not say how many officers were involved in the sting.
“At this time, we will continue to interview witnesses and try to gather some video surveillance and interview the involved officers as well,” McDonough said. “We’ve just begun our investigation.”
The incident in Ross happened on a day that hundreds of police officers and others flocked to Pittsburgh for the funeral of slain Pittsburgh police Officer Calvin Hall, who was shot July 14 in Homewood. He died three days later.
“It’s not lost on me that at the time Pittsburgh was laying to rest one of its heroes, Officer Hall, this shooting happened,” Shapiro said.
“I hope the good men and women and good families here in Pittsburgh understand that there are people who go out every day to try and keep them safe, and our agent is one of those people — dedicated to the mission, dedicated to public safety and someone who is a hero to me and to my leadership team,” Shapiro said. “We wish him well, we wish his family well.”
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter .