ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — As an investigation progresses into the shooting death of a man who stabbed and killed a police K-9 in Wilkinsburg, the Allegheny County district attorney released video of the incident and new details about the events leading to the deadly altercation.
District Attorney Stephen Zappala reiterated Thursday the details released in the criminal complaint. He confirmed that Bruce Kelley Jr. and his father, 60-year-old Bruce Kelley Sr., were drinking under a gazebo on Port Authority property when the father and son were spotted.
According to the criminal complaint, Kelley Jr. started to walk away from the approaching officers when he suddenly turned around, cursed and charged the officers. Kelley Sr. then ran to his son’s aid, punching a female officer in the face before being pepper-sprayed and arrested, the complaint said.
Police caught up with Kelley Jr. and ordered him to stop, but he refused, according to the complaint.
"He just kept on walking. He wasn't listening to the police whatsoever. He just kept on going," witness Katherine Patterson said.
Officers then fired their stun guns at Kelley Jr., but because of the thick coat he was wearing, it had no effect.
Video of the incident released Thursday from a Port Authority camera showed officers attempting to apprehend Kelley Jr. with stun guns and their batons drawn. At one point, Kelley is seen knocking away one officer’s baton with a 4-inch knife.
According to Zappala, Kelley Jr. was holding the knife during the initial confrontation with police and refused to drop it during the nearly 20-minute sequence.
Four agencies -- the Port Authority, as well as Wilkinsburg, Swissvale and Edgewood police -- were involved in the pursuit of Kelley Jr.
Zappala said that less than two minutes after the end of the video, Port Authority Police K-9 Aren was released and bit Kelley Jr. on the left arm.
"At this time they released the dog on the man. He had a knife and he stabbed the dog. The dog went down and the officers shot and killed the man,” Allegheny County Police Department Superintendent Charles Moffatt said.
Zappala said Kelley Jr. stabbed Aren twice before officers fired a total of 12 shots at him. The district attorney said it’s unclear as to how many bullets struck Kelley Jr. since the autopsy results have not yet been completed.
Aren was taken to an animal hospital, but died of his injuries.
Two Port Authority officers involved in the incident remain on administrative leave.
Meanwhile, Kelley Sr. is facing several charges, including aggravated assault and resisting arrest.
The Black Political Empowerment Project is demanding answers as to how the incident escalated from two men drinking in public to one of them and a K-9 losing their lives. The organization sent letters on Friday to the Port Authority, District Attorney and Allegheny County asking for their policies on deadly force and police K-9s.
“We have a man shot at 12 times over an incident that started with drinking. There's something wrong with that picture,” Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project, said. “We have too many people dying for no reason. This man should not be dead, nor should the K-9 officer be dead. It should have been handled, I think, in a different way.”
Zappala said it’s still unclear if the use of deadly force was justified by officers.
“That's ultimately the question: Was the use of force justified?” he said. "But this is not a discussion about a dog. This is about police training and the policies and procedures concerning use of force."
The incident remains under investigation by county police and the District Attorney’s Office.
“I guess that type of discussion takes place across the country right now. Could we have done something else? Should we have taken a human life? I think we should have that discussion,” Zappala said.
While Zappala said initial findings appear to show that the officers followed proper protocol during the incident, Kelley Jr.’s loved ones are hardly convinced.
After viewing the newly released video Thursday, Kelley Jr.’s aunt, Connie Kelley, said she believes police went too far.
“I think that was terrible. It was wrong for them to do that, shoot him down,” she said.
As for family friend and witness Sharon Littlejohn, she said she saw in person some of what the surveillance video captured.
“I stood there, and I’m looking. They kept following him, kept saying, ‘Stop, stop, stop.’ He said, ‘Leave me alone. Just leave me alone,’” Littlejohn said.
She said she didn’t see Kelley Jr. display any aggression towards officers.
“As soon as he got back on Whitney, all I heard was, ‘Pop, pop, pop,’” Littlejohn said.
Connie Kelley said she can’t help but feel like that many officers could have resolved the situation without the use of deadly force.
“I’m feeling like they’re using this animal to cover up what they’ve done,” she said. “They could have taken him down without taking his life.”
Cox Media Group