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Pennsylvania police fatally shoot Florida murder suspect in Washington County

| Friday, April 13, 2018, 6:03 a.m.

A man wanted for murder in Florida turned up Thursday night in Washington County and was fatally shot by state police after leading them on a wrong-way chase along Interstate 70 and refusing their commands to drop a pistol, authorities said.

Steven Jamine Brooks, 45, of St. Petersburg, was on the run for the suspected killing of a Pinellas County woman in February.

In a news conference Friday afternoon, state police Capt. Joseph Ruggery said troopers saw Brooks driving erratically near I-70's Murtland Avenue ramp in South Strabane just before 11:30 p.m.

Brooks tried to elude troopers by driving the wrong way in the interstate's eastbound lanes, but he crashed into a bridge column. He ran from the car and troopers chased him down a steep embankment, Ruggery said.

Troopers was holding a .40-caliber Beretta pistol and ignored "repeated verbal commands" to show his hands, according to Ruggery.

"When (Brooks) turned back toward the troopers with the pistol still in his hand, deadly force was employed to stop his actions," Ruggery said.

Washington County coroner Tim Warco pronounced Brooks dead about 1:40 a.m.

"This incident epitomizes the fact that there is no such thing as a 'routine traffic stop,'" Ruggery said. "Every time a police officer stops a vehicle for a violation, that officer is literally putting his or her life on the line in order to further our collective law enforcement mission of public safety."

District Attorney Eugene Vittone is investigating the troopers' actions. Both officers have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard is officer-involved shootings.

A spokesman for the Sheriff's Office in Alabama's Madison County tweeted Friday morning that Brooks had evaded a manhunt there Thursday and was driving a truck that had been reported stolen in neighboring Limestone County.

Spokesman Danny Shaw told the Tribune-Review that authorities tracked Brooks to a home in Harvest, Ala., and surrounded it at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Brooks allowed two people inside to get out safely. Authorities believe they were associated with a man who drove Brooks from Florida to Alabama.

After spending about three hours on the phone with a negotiator, Brooks got into a car in the garage, crashed through the door in reverse and drove through a line of police cars. Authorities chased Brooks, whose stolen car was throwing up sparks from flattened, torn-up tires before going into a wooded area as it caught fire, Shaw said. He ran from the wreckage near the Madison County line, but a search involving police K-9s and a helicopter came up empty.

"People have asked how he got away twice, but he likely knew he was a murder suspect and facing either life in prison or the death penalty," Shaw said. "We had him surrounded like a caged animal, and he was desperate."

Brooks was driving the same white Silverado when troopers spotted him late Thursday in Washington.

Officers from Florida's Pinellas Park went to Alabama and would likely interview the man who brought Brooks there to determine if charges would be filed against him.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Brooks, also known as Siddeeq Ma'Shooq, was a suspect in the Feb. 12 murder of Pinellas Park musician Caroline Morton-Hicks, 59, who was shot and killed leaving a rehearsal of the Pinellas Park Civic Orchestra. Morton-Hicks, a British expatriate, also appeared to have been Brooks's landlord and Pinellas County court records showed he was behind on his rent.

Matthew Santoni and Megan Guza are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach Santoni at 724 836 6660, or on Twitter @msantoni. Reach Guza at 412-380-8519, or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.

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