Posted: 12/12/2005 11:06:04 AM EST
Pennsylvania Trooper Found Dead In Parking Lot
Story by wpxi.com
A massive manhunt is over in the fatal shooting of a Pennsylvania state trooper.
The Allegheny County coroner said Cpl. Joseph Pokorny, 45, of Moon Township, died Monday of a gunshot wound to the chest. Police said he was shot multiple times.
His body was found in a parking lot the Extended Stay Hotel. That is near the Carnegie exit along the Parkway West.
Officials said the incident began as a traffic stop just after 2 a.m.
Police searched the hotel for the shooters, but were unable to find anything.
A few hours later, police surrounded a home on Sarah Street on the South Side.
Officials said a blood trail was found along Larkins Way, a nearby alley.
Channel 11's Rick Earle said several smoke-style grenades have been fired into the home, which is surrounded by officers with rifles.
Officials advised residents within a three-block area to stay inside their homes.
Shortly after 1 p.m., two people -- a man and a woman -- surrendered without incident.
Both suspects are in police custody.
Their names are not known.
there was something big going on this morning, news choppers were being told (repeatedly) to back off a scene (which is somewhat rare), salt was being dumped & metal detectors were out (presumably to melt snow & search for weapon(s)
hope the perps are caught & punished
RIP to the Trooper, prayers for his family and a quick trial and free ticket to the Tookie ride for the murderer(s).
That is just too sad.
I am sad to hear this. I wonder if the people who shot him knew what they were doing, I bet they were under the influence of some kind of drugs.
hopefully, him and tookie can kick it, yo.
Dragnet Cast For Pennsylvania Trooper'S Killers
JONATHAN D. SILVER, CINDI LASH AND MOUSTAFA AYAD
The final traffic stop of state police Cpl. Joseph Pokorny's career ended outside a Carnegie hotel yesterday with a violent confrontation unfolding so rapidly that the 22-year veteran had no time to call for help once he realized his life was in danger.
Authorities said the 2 a.m. encounter, details of which remained murky last night, quickly turned into a desperate struggle that ended with the corporal fatally shot in the chest and lying in a snowbank near the Parkway West. The vehicle sped away and was recovered yesterday evening on the South Side, near the Hot Metal Bridge.
Some of Cpl. Pokorny's belongings lay strewn near the parking lot of the Extended StayAmerica hotel. His gun reportedly was missing.
Police quickly launched a massive manhunt for up to four suspects believed to have fled. By nightfall, a man and woman had been taken into custody in the 2800 block of Sarah Street, South Side, and police with photographs of another suspect set up a dragnet in Brookline, peering into vehicles traveling down busy Brookline Boulevard.
Authorities believe they have linked a semiautomatic handgun found at the scene of the homicide to the man apprehended on the South Side, but no one had been charged in Cpl. Pokorny's slaying as of last night.
The woman, identified as Charise Cheatom, 23, of the Sarah Street address, was charged with hindering apprehension and false reporting. Her attorney, Angela Carsia, last night said police alleged that she did not initially disclose to them that the man believed linked to the gun was in her house.
Col. Jeffrey B. Miller, the state police commander, traveled to Pittsburgh from Harrisburg to praise Cpl. Pokorny and vow to hunt down those responsible for his death. As he discussed Cpl. Pokorny, 45, and the two children he left behind, Col. Miller struggled to keep his emotions in check.
"Cpl. Pokorny," he said, pausing for a long time as his jaw worked, "Cpl. Pokorny was a highly respected member of the department. He spent 221/2 years as a member. He was promoted to corporal in 2000."
Calling it a "cowardly murder," Col. Miller used the news conference to address the culprits.
"You have an opportunity right now to turn yourselves in," he said. "We don't want to see more violence associated with this circumstance."
The corporal, described as an aggressive and respected trooper, worked as the overnight patrol supervisor out of the Pittsburgh barracks in Moon. At 2:08 a.m., he alerted dispatch that he was following a Mercury Sable, but authorities yesterday could not say why Cpl. Pokorny intended to pull the vehicle over or where he was when he made the dispatch.
State police were reviewing audio tapes of the call yesterday. Typically, patrol troopers travel in pairs on the midnight shift, but supervisors can drive alone.
Col. Miller said there were indications that Cpl. Pokorny asked for backup during his initial radio call. However, he raised the possibility that the situation changed so swiftly that the corporal did not have time to wait for help or make additional dispatches.
Eight minutes later, Carnegie police Sgt. Mark Lint happened upon Cpl. Pokorny's cruiser while on routine patrol in the 600 block of North Bell Avenue outside the front entrance of the hotel.
Carnegie Police Chief Jeff Harbin said Sgt. Lint was driving along the road when he saw the corporal's police car, its headlights on, overhead red and blue lights activated and driver's side door open.
Sgt. Lint found Cpl. Pokorny about 25 feet away in a snowbank and radioed for medics, Chief Harbin said. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:26 a.m.
Cpl. Pokorny's vehicle was equipped with a dashboard camera that typically would be activated when the overhead lights were turned on. However, it was unclear whether the camera was working.
"The scene itself leads us to believe there was a struggle," Allegheny County police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said.
Superintendent Moffatt estimated that about 60 state troopers were working on the investigation yesterday along with county detectives, city police, U.S. marshals and sheriff's deputies.
Heaters were brought in to melt snow at the crime scene, which was blocked off for much of yesterday by state police. During interviews of hotel residents following the discovery of Cpl. Pokorny's body, a resident was arrested on narcotics charges. It was not clear if there was any connection to the homicide investigation.
Yesterday morning, dozens of city, county and state police and Allegheny County sheriff's deputies converged on the South Side after obtaining information that a man wanted for questioning in Cpl. Pokorny's slaying was hiding in a townhouse in the 2800 block of Sarah Street.
Police evacuated some units in the row of townhouses and told other residents of the street to stay indoors and away from windows.
Grim-faced, rifle-toting troopers and officers took up positions at intersections and shut off access to narrow alleys for several blocks in each direction.
Some motorists occasionally slowed their cars to quiz officers stationed at 28th and Carson Streets about the commotion. Others peered out of the windows of the Crazy Mocha coffee shop across Carson Street or stole furtive peeks from second- and third-floor windows of the Carson Retirement Residence, which overlooks the street.
As morning stretched into afternoon, patrons seeking to reach the Goodwill Industries store, other nearby apartment complexes or cars parked on Sarah Street occasionally sought to breach the police lines. But they were told to stay back or, when possible, walk several blocks out of their way.
Shortly after noon, police released a man and a woman who had been seated in a patrol car, their hands bound with flexible cuffs, but then took the man back into custody a short time later. The woman, who lived in the apartment building surrounded by police, declined comment.
State troopers from the Investigations Unit at Troop B headquarters in Washington, Pa., arrived with two men whose hands also were bound with flexible cuffs. The troopers briefly took the two men out of their unmarked cars. But police officials would not identify them or say why they were there.
At midday, police made contact with another resident of the townhouse building who apparently had nothing to do with Cpl. Pokorny's slaying but was wanted on a warrant in an unrelated robbery. After discovering that police had surrounded the building, that man surrendered and walked out of the house accompanied by two small children.
The man police were seeking did not come out for another hour, and only after stalling a state police negotiator, Cpl. Norman Hilf, who'd made contact with him by cellular telephone. The man repeatedly told police he was coming out, only to say he was first getting dressed, then brushing his teeth.
Police waited until the man finally emerged to take him in to county police headquarters for questioning.
Police said they found blood inside the building and also found a trail of blood on Larkins Way, a dead-end alley one block south of Sarah Street. But they would not say where they believed the blood came from, or if they were sure that it was related to the slaying.
At 3:15 p.m., police fired seven shots of tear gas into the building and began to search it for guns or other evidence related to the slaying. They found no other people inside.
As activity at that scene wound down, police developed information about a second man sought in connection with their investigation and learned that he might have been in Brookline.
Police cruisers sped in convoys from the South Side to Brookline Boulevard and Pioneer Avenue, at one end of Brookline's business district. As night fell, troopers and city police shut off Brookline Boulevard between Pioneer Avenue and Wedgemere Street while other officers prowled on foot through rutted ice and snow on nearby Fitch Way, Dillon Way and Wedgemere.
Some officers spoke with residents in the Pinebrook Apartment complex at the intersection. Others went door to door on nearby streets with posters bearing the photograph and other information about the man they were seeking.
By 6 p.m., troopers had reopened Brookline Boulevard to traffic but had parked marked patrol cars in traffic lanes to create a bottleneck. As motorists slowed to pass by, uniformed troopers approached each car and peered inside before allowing vehicles to pass.
They also checked out the occupants of passing Port Authority buses.
By 7:15 p.m., most troopers and officers had left the area without taking anyone into custody.
Three schools in the Plum School District were locked down for about an hour yesterday while state, county and Plum police searched a townhouse in the Holiday Park section of the borough where officials believed a suspect in the trooper's shooting once lived.
Police also searched in St. Clair Village and in Beechview, near Sebring Avenue, last night, without apparent success.
Nothing was found and the schools -- Oblock Junior High School, Adlai Stevenson Elementary School and Holiday Park Elementary School -- were cleared at 1:30 p.m.
Gov. Ed Rendell expressed condolences to the corporal's family and ordered state flags to be lowered to half-staff on Friday, the day of Cpl. Pokorny's funeral service.
"He made the ultimate sacrifice," state police Capt. Roger Waters said. "How many times do we go out on the roads by ourselves not knowing if you're going to come home?"
Cpl. Pokorny was the 91st state trooper killed in the line of duty.
Damn. I sometimes shoot with a couple of Troopers. Great guys!
I hope Pa can manage to off these clowns quicker than the 20+ years it took to kill Tookie.
Rendell has yet to execute anyone
Traffic Stop Turned Bad For Pennsylvania Trooper
Michael A. Fuoco and Cindi Lash
There were snow flurries and it was a bone-chilling 26 degrees when Cpl. Joseph Pokorny reported for work on the midnight shift Monday at the Pennsylvania State Police station in Moon.
As a patrol unit supervisor, Cpl. Pokorny, 45, of Moon, had the option of riding alone or with a partner. On this night, he rode alone.
Two hours later, he was dead. Court papers filed yesterday suggest the 22-year state police veteran was shot to death, possibly with his own gun, after a violent fight with a speeding driver who crashed a borrowed car outside a Carnegie hotel.
The man identified by police as Cpl. Pokorny's killer, re-cent prison parolee Leslie Mollett, 30, was arraigned on homicide and other charges early yesterday. Mr. Mollett, who was arrested Wednesday night, was jailed until a hearing next Friday.
New details about the circumstances of Cpl. Pokorny's slaying emerged in the police affidavit supporting Mr. Mollett's arrest. Cpl. Pokorny will be laid to rest this morning.
The affidavit noted that Cpl. Pokorny's responsibilities on his shift included patrolling various highways in Allegheny County, including the Parkway.
As light snow fell, Cpl. Pokorny spotted a black 2001 Mercury Sable traveling west at up to 90 mph, investigators said. At 1:56 a.m., authorities said, Cpl. Pokorny notified dispatchers that he was in pursuit of a vehicle and provided the license number. Asked for his location, he said he was at the Extended StayAmerica hotel at 520 North Bell Ave. in Carnegie.
Other state police units headed to the area to provide backup. They never made it in time. At 2:05 a.m., state police dispatch was notified via Allegheny County 911 that Carnegie police Sgt. Mark Lint, who had been on routine patrol, had discovered a wounded trooper in the parking lot and had requested emergency assistance.
A paramedic from the Carnegie Emergency Medical Service pronounced the trooper dead at 2:26 a.m. The Allegheny County Coroner's office said Cpl. Pokorny died of a gunshot wound to the chest. There also was a gunshot wound to the back of his head.
His killing was a mystery but there were clues at the scene. Cpl. Pokorny's body was found near a curb surrounding a landscaped area separating the parking lot from the street. Fresh tire impressions in the snow showed that a vehicle had traveled over the curb area and had come to rest in the landscaping, displacing shrubbery.
In the shrubs, investigators found a fully loaded Glock .40-caliber handgun. Near Cpl. Pokorny's body were his handcuffs, pepper spray and collapsible baton, indicating a violent struggle had occurred. Near his body was a dark, hooded jacket with fur around the hood.
Missing was his department-issued Beretta handgun. But casings consistent with state police ammunition were found, indicating that Cpl. Pokorny may have been killed with his own weapon.
At 7:30 a.m., an informant told authorities that someone had told him or her that Mr. Mollett, a convicted drug dealer who was paroled Nov. 17 from the State Correctional Institution Fayette, was the driver of the Mercury Sable and had been in possession of the Glock handgun.
The informant also said Mr. Mollett was currently at 2825 Sarah St., South Side, the home of his girlfriend, Charise Cheatom, 23. Later, investigators learned Ms. Cheatom owned the Mercury Sable.
Dozens of city, county and state police and Allegheny County sheriff's deputies converged on the South Side. After hours of delays, Mr. Mollett and Ms. Cheatom came out of the home and were jailed -- him on a parole violation and her charged with hindering apprehension and making false reports to police.
Ms. Cheatom's bond, which had been set at $100,000, was reduced yesterday to a $5,000 percentage bond in a hearing by Allegheny County Judge David Cashman.
The judge also ordered Ms. Cheatom put on electronic monitoring before her trial.
In the court affidavit, detectives said Mr. Mollett admitted to being the operator of the black Mercury Sable, which was carrying two passengers. He said he was driving at between 80 and 90 mph and saw Cpl. Pokorny's car with emergency lights behind him but didn't stop and took the Rosslyn Farms exit toward the hotel.
There, he told authorities, he crashed the car onto the curb at the hotel entrance. He also admitted to having the Glock handgun in the car.
After the crash, he said, he and his passengers got out of the car and were confronted by Cpl. Pokorny. Mr. Mollett said he and Cpl. Pokorny began to struggle and his jacket came off during the altercation. He said he fled in the Sable, leaving his passengers behind. The affidavit didn't explain how he said he was able to get away from Cpl. Pokorny.
Through the investigation, detectives were able to identify the passengers, but did not reveal them in the affidavit. They learned that the group had been at a Downtown nightclub, before the encounter with Cpl. Pokorny.
On Tuesday, the passengers each gave statements that confirmed the beginning of Mr. Mollett's version but contradicted the crucial ending.
One of them said that after they got out of the car Cpl. Pokorny ordered them to show their hands and ordered Mr. Mollett to stand near the car's trunk, where he began to pat him down. Mr. Mollett began to resist and fight with the trooper, and the passengers ran away. Multiple gunshots were then fired.
The other passenger said that, after crashing, Mr. Mollett attempted to shove a handgun under the front seat of the car. That passenger told detectives Mr. Mollett became verbally combative with Cpl. Pokorny and refused to comply when ordered to put his hands on the car.
Mr. Mollett then became physically combative, the passenger said, and the trooper pulled out his pepper spray, but Mr. Mollett's fighting caused it to spray erratically. That's when the passengers fled and there were multiple gunshots in rapid succession, the second passenger told investigators.
Within minutes, the passenger said, he received a phone call from Mr. Mollett on his cell phone telling him the trooper "got three to the head." In a second call, Mr. Mollett asked that the passenger return to the scene to get the handgun, a request that was refused.
Based on that information, Mr. Mollett, who remained in jail on the parole violation, was charged late Wednesday with criminal homicide, theft by taking, resisting arrest, attempting to elude police and firearms violations.
Prosecutors now are reviewing the possibility of seeking the death penalty against Mr. Mollett, said Mike Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. Authorities would not comment on whether anyone else will face charges in Cpl. Pokorny's slaying.
Attorney John Elash, who with attorney James Ecker is representing Mr. Mollett, yesterday said he believes investigators' allegations in the affidavit are based on hearsay from people who wish to deflect suspicion from themselves.
"I don't know why anybody would say anything to incriminate themselves,'' he said. "Mr. Mollett denies involvement in the shooting of the trooper."
During their investigation, police focused on locating several men and repeatedly refused to identify those men as suspects in Cpl. Pokorny's slaying. Instead they said they believed the men had valuable information that would assist them.
Their investigation also uncovered additional information about drug dealing and other criminal activity in St. Clair Village and other neighborhoods frequented by men they were seeking.
3 others arrested
Thus far, police have arrested three men -- one for renting a room at the Extended StayAmerica hotel where more than a pound of heroin was discovered and two others for escaping from local halfway houses earlier this year.
Those who have figured publicly in the investigation include:
* Jack Maurice Woods, 23, of St. Clair Village, a fugitive from Ada's House, a halfway house in Stowe.
Police and sheriff's deputies arrested Mr. Woods in Mount Oliver Wednesday night after searching homes of friends and relatives in the South Hills and Ross. As he returned to jail after being arraigned yesterday on escape charges, jail officials sought to figure out how he was mistakenly placed in the halfway house. His hearing is set for Monday.
Mr. Woods also was one of two people who were shot and wounded early on June 19, 2004, outside the former SVS Club on West Warrington Avenue on Mount Washington. That drive-by shooting is believed to have triggered at least five retaliatory shootings between people in St. Clair Village and Beltzhoover, culminating with the slaying of Carrick High School student Keith Watts in March.
* Jabbar Odell James, 28, of St. Clair Village; Phillip Andrew Peterson, 29, who has addresses in St. Clair Village and Swissvale; and Byron Rice, 26, of Arlington Heights. Investigators also sought to interview them after the slaying, saying they believed the men had pertinent information. Police said the men met voluntarily with them Tuesday and left on their own.
* Andrew Lamar Palmer, 21, of St. Clair Village, who also was sought for questioning by investigators. Accompanied by attorney Lee Rothman, Mr. Palmer met with police Tuesday but was arrested on drug possession and distribution charges after more than a pound of heroin was found in a room he rented at the Extended StayAmerica hotel.
Mr. Palmer, who has previously pleaded guilty to drug possession and distribution charges, also was charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute the heroin with Tyrone Bullock and others. His attorney said he was with friends at a nightclub and was not at the hotel when Cpl. Pokorny was killed.
Mr. Palmer is jailed on $2 million straight bond until a hearing Thursday.
* Tyrone Bullock, 40, formerly of Beltzhoover, another recent state prison parolee and fugitive from the Renewal Inc. halfway house, Downtown. Mr. Bullock, who also has a record for drug offenses, was jailed with Mr. Mollett for about six months before he was paroled in February from the State Correctional Institution Fayette.
Mr. Bullock had been sought since he fled from Renewal Inc. in August. He was rearrested Monday by troopers investigating Cpl. Pokorny's slaying and jailed until a parole revocation hearing, set for Wednesday.
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