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Pennsylvania Trooper Has Killed Four In Rural Areas

In 2008, Pennsylvania Trooper Jay Splain was honored at a county law enforcement banquet as police officer of the year for killing a suicidal man who allegedly pointed an Uzi submachine gun at him. Splain went on to fatally shoot three more people in separate incidents, an extraordinary tally for an officer responsible for patrolling largely rural areas with low violent crime rates, reports the New York Times. All four who died were struggling with drugs, mental illness or both. In two cases, family members had called the police for help because their relatives had threatened to kill themselves. Last month, Splain shot an unarmed man in his Volkswagen Beetle. After learning that the officer had previously killed three other people, the man’s sister, Autumn Krouse, asked, “Why would that person still be employed?”

Most officers never fire their weapons. Until now, Splain's full record of killings has not been disclosed. The Pennsylvania State Police successfully fought a lawsuit seeking to identify him and provide details in one shooting. In the agency’s century of policing, no officer has been prosecuted for fatally shooting someone. Prosecutors and a grand jury concluded that Splain’s first three lethal shootings were justified. Investigations were led by officers from his unit, raising questions about their rigor. “When a police officer has shot at and potentially killed a civilian, the public will never trust the police agency to investigate itself and be unbiased,” said Tom Hogan, former district attorney of Chester County, Pa. He helped write recommendations by the state prosecutors’ association for independent investigations — a reform that many departments resist, but one sought by a national prosecutors’ association and major policing groups. In three of Splain's encounters, the people killed were in vehicles. The trooper shot two unarmed drivers because they were allegedly using their vehicles as weapons, a frequent rationale. David Kennedy, president of the state troopers’ union, responded on Splain’s behalf to written questions, saying he had acted with courage and “was forced to make split-second decisions no one hopes they ever have to make.”


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