Officials say fatal shooting by off-duty trooper was justified

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BUTLER COUNTY, Pa. - Officials announced Tuesday that a fatal shooting by an off-duty state trooper in Butler County was justified.

The shooting happened last month on September Drive.

Trooper Brian Knirnschild was off duty when he shot Kristopher Barkus, 25, after ordering him several times to drop a weapon that he pointed at the trooper, District Attorney Richard Goldinger said.

Investigators said Barkus went to the trooper’s home armed with an Airsoft gun, which appeared to be real.

“It looked just like a real gun. It was a replica to a Beretta. It had no markings on it whatsoever like a toy gun. It looked real,” said Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Tom Debovi.

Marcinkiewicz reported that seven minutes before the shooting, Barkus’ mother called 911 for a welfare check. The call was placed at 8:33 p.m., officials said. When police arrived on September Drive around 8:40 p.m., investigators said the shooting had already happened.

Barkus’ family told Channel 11 News that Kristopher suffered from depression. The man’s father said about a month ago, Barkus approached the trooper, who is a neighbor of the family, and asked if he could arrest him and put him in jail.

Attorney Al Lindsay of Butler, representing the Barkus family, said the family felt an independent agency should have investigated the shooting, not state police.

“Our position is that it was not suicide by cop, it was not suicide at all,” Lindsay said. “This was a young man trying to seek help.”

Barkus pointed what turned out to be a pellet gun at Knirnschild, state police said. Just before the shooting, Barkus had fled his home, threatening to jump off a bridge, police said.

Barkus' parents, Bob and Pam, previously said that their son suffered from depression and other health problems. They said their son approached Knirnshchild about a month before the shooting, asking Barkus to arrest him and put him in jail. Police said Knirnschild ordered Barkus to leave his home.

Knirnschild, 27, of Butler Township has returned to duty, state police said. He has been a trooper for about two years. He and his family had recently moved into the neighborhood, police said.

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

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