PITTSBURGH (AP) – A city man wanted on child-rape charges was hit by seven bullets fired by two different guns when members of a U.S. marshal’s-led fugitive task force tried to arrest him two days ago, the district attorney announced Thursday.
A shotgun was also fired, but did not strike Leslie Sapp III, 47, according to Allegheny County district attorney’s spokesman Mike Manko.
The DA’s office and city police are investigating the shooting, which city Chief Cameron McLay said occurred after Sapp confronted the officers with what turned out to be a BB gun after they burst into his home about 7:15 a.m. But investigators have yet to specify how many officers were present, which ones fired the weapons, or the agencies for which they worked.
Allegheny County Medical Examiner Dr. Karl Williams ruled that Sapp died of “multiple gunshot wounds,” but he has declined to comment more specifically during the investigation.
The Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office and the Pennsylvania State Police each confirmed having one officer at the scene when Sapp was killed by task force members who forced their way into his two-story home.
Kevin Kraus, the chief deputy sheriff in Allegheny County, told The Associated Press that officers had tried to find Sapp at least 30 times at the home since city police charged him in July with repeatedly raping a young girl since 2011.
U.S. Marshal Steven Frank in Pittsburgh wouldn’t say how many of his deputies were involved and referred all questions to the city police, who didn’t immediately comment Thursday.
At a media briefing Tuesday evening, McLay stopped short of specifically saying Sapp aimed the weapon at them.
“This individual confronted our officers with this weapon, adopted, presented it in a manner consistent with what one would use when trained to use a handgun against officers,” McLay said then. “The officers fired to defend themselves.”
State police spokeswoman Maria Finn said the trooper involved has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is normal during such investigations. She would not identify the trooper, but said he’s assigned to the task force full-time.
Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen likewise didn’t name his deputy involved, but confirmed he fired shots during the encounter and is also on paid leave.
Mullen wouldn’t comment on the shooting but said the task force typically uses teams of seven or eight officers to serve arrest warrants.
“It’s not quite like a SWAT entry, and they practice a lot because of the number of marshals that have been shot in the past several years,” Mullen said.
A friend of Sapp’s, Melissa Brown, 41, of Pittsburgh, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review she went to Sapp’s home afterward and saw evidence that a side door had been forced open and saw six to eight gunshot holes along a stairwell wall leading to the second floor. The AP could not immediately reach Brown at several phone numbers listed under her name in online directories.
Mullen said deputies involved in shootings are also referred for psychological help to deal with the trauma, especially when a suspect is killed. The trauma of shooting someone is often greater than being shot at, he said.
“We’ve been shot at and not sent them,” Mullen said. “But when they’re there, witnessing (someone being shot), there’s an impact on their life.”
Ex-inmate gets prison for trafficking teens with ex-guard
PITTSBURGH (AP) – A former state prison inmate must now spend 10 years in federal prison for sex-trafficking two teens with the help of his girlfriend, whom he met when she was a guard at the western Pennsylvania prison where he served his previous sentence.
Thirty-three-year-old Rasul Abernathy, who last lived in Coatesville, near Philadelphia, was sentenced Thursday by a federal judge in Pittsburgh.
He pleaded guilty in September to forcing a 16-year-old runaway girl and a 17-year-old boy the couple met online to sell themselves for sex.
Abernathy and 34-year-old Poshauntamarin Walker were living near Pittsburgh when the crimes occurred. She pleaded guilty in October and, like Abernathy, faces an agreed-upon 10-year prison term when she returns for sentencing Feb. 11.
2 dead in 18-vehicle pileup on Pennsylvania highway
CLARION, Pa. (AP) – A western Pennsylvania motorist and a Kentucky trucker were identified as those who died in an 18-vehicle crash caused by a snow squall that left drivers with little visibility on Interstate 80, authorities said Thursday.
The chain reaction pileup happened Wednesday afternoon in whiteout conditions in Clarion Township, about 60 miles from the Ohio border.
Timothy Floravit, 35, of Beaver Falls, died of chest and stomach injuries from hitting the steering column of his vehicle, which crashed with his wife and children also inside, Clarion County Coroner Terry Shaffer told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The other man killed was Leonard Mink, 67, of Nancy, Kentucky, who was struck by another vehicle when he got out of his rig to help other motorists. It wasn’t immediately clear if Mink’s vehicle was among those involved in the crash, or whether he had been able to stop safely before he was killed.
Nine trucks, several of them tractor-trailers, and nine cars were involved in the crash in the highway’s westbound lanes, state police said. At least one of the trucks was carrying hazardous material, but no leaks were found, a county official said.
“It was carnage,” Shaffer said. “(There was) metal everywhere. There were busted axles, trucks totaled. One tanker truck didn’t have any wheels on it.”
State police spokesman Trooper Jamie Levier told the AP the number of those injured and taken to hospital was less than 10, not nearly two dozen as was reported earlier. He said the inflated number may have been caused by other authorities assuming that a bus carrying nearly 20 passengers was headed to a hospital.
“They weren’t injured. It was 10 degrees out,” and the bus was used to keep them warm until they could find other transportation from the crash, Levier said.
The coroner said Floravit’s wife said “they just kept getting hit and banged around.” He collapsed and died of internal injuries while looking for his children, who had been ejected, Shaffer said. The children were found unharmed.
None of the injuries were thought to be life-threatening, although three of those taken to Clarion Hospital were sent on to Pittsburgh hospitals with more serious injuries. The others were being treated for everything from bumps to broken bones, hospital spokeswoman Julie Kunselman said.
The National Weather Service had issued warnings about lake effect snow squalls in the area Wednesday afternoon. The squalls drifted southwest from Lake Erie.
A third person in Clarion County crashed his car and died at about the same time, but his death was attributed to a heart attack, Shaffer said.