Westmoreland campground killing appears justified: police
The lead state police investigator in the Aug. 17 shooting death of an Allegheny County man at a Derry Township campground said Monday that evidence collected to date indicates the shooting "points to self-defense."
Trooper James Simpson of the Greensburg barracks said police are still awaiting a final autopsy report and the results of a few forensic tests. But at this point it appears the shooting of Sherman Shawn Prince, 40, of Mt. Oliver, during an argument with two other campers at the Lazy Acres Campground, near Keystone State Park, might have been justified.
"Believe me, I really do feel for the family who loses a loved one in the shooting, but right now all the evidence we've collected points in one direction (self-defense), and I'm not sure that's going to change with the tests that are still pending. But if it does, we definitely will pursue it," Simpson said.
"We can only take a case where the evidence leads us," the trooper said.
Members of Prince's family, including his father, Sherman, of Pittsburgh, and an aunt, Sharon Josefik, of Clearfield, complained recently that investigators had not responded to their inquiries about the shooting death and that the investigation has stalled. They said some details of the shooting released by police do not corroborate with what they knew about Prince, an automobile detailer, who died at the scene.
Prince's family members maintain that he did not own a gun. However, Simpson said evidence collected at the scene and through forensic tests to date indicate that he was pointing a loaded .22-caliber handgun at the face of Anthony Verdiglione of McKeesport when he was shot.
Prince was shot by a friend of Verdiglione, Dale O. Miller, 43, of McKeesport. Police have said that Miller and Verdiglione have cooperated throughout the investigation.
According to search warrants filed with the case, Verdiglione and Miller arrived at the campground about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 17. Within an hour, Prince drove to their campsite in a golf cart and began arguing, police said.
Court documents said Miller escorted Prince out of his camper to the golf cart Prince used around the campground after Prince allegedly grabbed Verdiglione's shirt during an argument. Other campers told police that they could hear Prince cursing Miller and Verdiglione as he drove back to his own campsite, where police said he retrieved a gun from his car and returned to Miller's trailer.
Police said a second confrontation occurred among the three men outside of Miller's camper where a witness said Prince pulled out a small handgun and pointed it at Veriglione's face. Verdiglione swiped at the gun in an attempt to strike it from Prince's hand, but missed, according to the search warrant.
"Miller, who had been standing behind Verdiglione, then brandished his own weapon (a .38-caliber handgun) and discharged the same, striking Prince one time in the head," Simpson wrote in the search warrant affidavit.
Prince was pronounced dead at the scene.
Prince's mother, Paulete, said yesterday she is disappointed police still believe the shooting might have been self-defense.
"It just doesn't add up. Shawn did not have a gun and the gun they found him with was stolen from McKeesport, where they are both from," Paulete Sherman said.
Simpson said he spoke with Prince's family members several times in the first few weeks after the shooting.
"I haven't spoken to them since then because the status of the case, at this point, has not changed," Simpson said.
Family members said they intend to hold a vigil at Christmas at the campsite in memory of Sherman Shawn Prince.