Officer describes being shot in Clairton home invasion

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PITTSBURGH - A Clairton police officer told jurors Monday that he was preparing to die after he was shot five times responding to a home-invasion robbery that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Emilio Rivera, 27, of McKees Rocks, and Marcus Andrejco, 19, of Rankin, are on trial in the shooting of Clairton police Officer James Kuzak.

Kuzak, 40, of Belle Vernon, testified he knew what happened as soon as he was shot.

"I knew in my mind I was paralyzed," said Kuzak, who had 18 years of law enforcement experience at the time of shooting but just three weeks on the force in Clairton.

Kuzak said he was at the back of the home on Miller Avenue April 4, 2011, attempting to kick down the door to alert those inside that police were there when the shooting started.

"It went from a white door to a black opening and I saw the first muzzle flash," he testified.

He was hit five times; one of the bullets is still in his spine. Now in a wheelchair, he is undergoing physical therapy, and working to regain use of his legs.

Kuzak testified that during the shooting time seemed to slow down, and he thought of his family, his fiancée and their dogs as he was attempting to cry out for help.

Prosecutors say police interrupted a robbery and sexual assault of a woman who lived there.

Andrejco and Rivera maintain their innocence. Lawyers for the two say confessions they gave police were coerced.

Jonathan Steiner, now a Washington police officer, who also responded to the home invasion, testified Monday morning, as well.

Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.