(Towanda, PA) – Bradford County District Attorney Albert C. Ondrey has announced that based on the investigation into the state trooper involved shooting of a juvenile on May 4, 2023, he has determined that the shooting was a lawful use of force.
The investigation was conducted by the Pennsylvania State Police and detectives from the Bradford County District Attorney’s Office.
Following the investigation, Ondrey said the evidence showed that the trooper was justified in employing deadly force to ensure the safety of himself, the other troopers present and the public in general. As a result, the trooper will not be charged with any criminal offenses in connection with the incident.
On May 4, 2023, at approximately 12:30 p.m., troopers were dispatched to investigate a threat of violence made on an online message board. The threats were determined to be made by a 15-year-old juvenile. Troopers were later notified that the juvenile had left his home with a firearm. Multiple troopers from Troop P in Towanda responded and began a search for the juvenile to ensure his safety.
They found the juvenile, who was armed with a firearm. The juvenile ran from the troopers, despite their commands to stop. He fled through woods and marshy areas. The troopers observed the juvenile brandishing a handgun. They offered him a surrender plan. They ordered him to drop the gun and surrender. He did not follow the commands to drop the gun. He pointed the gun at one of the pursuing troopers. Fearing for his safety, the trooper fired three shots striking the juvenile. The juvenile continued to point the gun at the trooper after the first two shots.
Troopers immediately summoned emergency medical services. The juvenile was transported via medical helicopter to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, PA, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Law Enforcement Officers’ Use of Force
Under the law, law enforcement officers may use such force as is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or others. The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene who are often forced to make split-second judgments in tense and rapidly evolving situations.
District Attorney Albert C. Ondrey concludes that the trooper was reasonable in the belief that he and others were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury due to the juvenile’s actions of refusing to comply with their commands and by pointing the handgun at the trooper. The trooper’s use of deadly force under these circumstances was reasonable and therefore justified under Pennsylvania law.
The law does not permit that certain information regarding the juvenile be made public. Loss of any life, particularly one this young, is tragic.
“The evidence showed the juvenile pointed the gun at the trooper despite multiple commands to drop the gun,” Ondrey said. “This tragedy could have been avoided had he followed those commands.”