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A Pennsylvania police officer's claim of self defense in her fatal shooting of an unarmed driver in February were dealt a blow on Tuesday when authorities charged her with criminal homicide, citing audio and video taken from a camera on the cop's stun gun.
On February 2, Hummelstown Officer Lisa J. Mearkle tried pulling 59-year-old David Kassick over for expired emissions and inspection tickets on his vehicle, but the suspect drove off with the officer in pursuit. When Mearkle caught up with Kassick, he exited his vehicle and attempted to flee, but Mearkle subdued him her stun gun and he was knocked to the ground.
She held the stun gun in her left hand, and her firearm in her right. After demanding that he show her his hands, she fired two rounds into his body.
Maerkle has said that Kassick appeared to be reaching for his waist, prompting her to believe that he intended to grab a gun. She administered CPR after the shooting. A syringe was later found near Kassick's body, and his family has noted that he had struggled with addiction.
According to District Attorney Ed Marsico, the stun gun footage showed Kassick face down on the ground. He was evidently trying to pull the stun gun's probes from his back before Maerkle fired the first shot. Marsico noted that four seconds separated the two shots.
"At the time Officer Mearkle fires both rounds from her pistol, the video clearly depicts Kassick lying on the snow covered lawn with his face toward the ground," the arrest affidavit states. "Furthermore, at the time the rounds are fired nothing can be seen in either of Kassick's hands, nor does he point or direct anything toward Officer Mearkle."
The evidence tipped the scales against Mearkle, persuading the authorities to conclude that she shot Kassick twice without justification.
Brian Perry, the 36-year-old officer's attorney, maintains that she had acted in self-defense out of concern for her safety. "She felt like she had to do what she did," he said.
Mearkle, a 15-year veteran of the department, is out on $250,000 bail. She has not been arraigned, but as a criminal homicide defendant she could be charged with anything from misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter to felony first-degree murder.
Photo via Flickr