A western Pennsylvania coroner wants a police officer who fatally shot a man after a car chase to be charged in his death, a recommendation that has drawn strong reactions from the local prosecutor, who maintains that the shooting was justified.
Washington County Coroner Timothy Warco announced Thursday, following an inquest this week into the April 2 fatal shooting of Eduardo Hoover Jr., that Mount Pleasant Township Police Officer Tyler Evans should be charged with manslaughter.
Warco said if County Attorney Jason Walsh doesn’t file charges, state prosecutors should. But officials said Friday that under the Pennsylvania Commonwealth’s Attorney Act, county coroners generally cannot refer criminal investigations to the attorney general’s office.
Evans did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Walsh, who announced in May that Evans’ shooting of Hoover was justified, dismissed Warco’s position as “theatrical nonsense” during a news conference Friday.
“The standard for deadly force is subjective and depends on the officer’s belief in real time: to fire their weapon and not from the comfort and safety of a conference room,” Walsh said. “The police have families they want to return to. »
Hoover, 38, was killed following a police chase that began in Mount Pleasant Township and ultimately involved township officers, as well as police from neighboring Smith Township. Hoover eventually stopped and his car was surrounded by five police vehicles. Evans fired through the back window, hitting Hoover twice.
Hoover’s family members who attended the inquest told reporters that the coroner’s findings brought things closer to justice.
“I thought the way he was killed was just unjustified,” Lori Cook, Hoover’s aunt, told KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. “It’s just unreal that at 38 he’s gone. Three children living without their father is unreal.
A county court has granted the request of officers involved in the chase not to have to give evidence at the coroner’s inquest.
Warco made its recommendation based on its autopsy of Hoover, police department and state police complaint and incident reports, 911 call log, body camera footage and surveillance nearby.
In his report, Warco said parts of Evans’ story did not match the body camera footage. Because Hoover’s car was blocked by police cars, he said, it could not be used as a deadly weapon and did not pose a threat to officers.
Another officer stood in front of Hoover’s vehicle — “in more danger than Officer Evans,” Warco said in his report — and pulled on the car’s grille to disable it, rather than at Hoover.
Warco also argued that Evans risked the other officer’s life by shooting from the rear of the car toward the front.
Mount Pleasant Township Police Chief Matthew Tharp said in a telephone interview Friday that the criminal investigation cleared Evans and that he remains an officer in good standing.
“Me and Mount Pleasant support our police officer,” Tharp said. “We have cooperated from the beginning, as has Officer Evans.”
Schultz and Associated Press writer Mark Scolforo reported from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Shipkowski from Toms River, New Jersey.