MCKEESPORT, Pa. — While blue lights typically signify an emergency, the lights in McKeesport flash for the loss of Officer Sean Sluganski who was killed on Monday in the line of duty.
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Channel 11 News sat down with a former coworker of Sluganski to talk about his legacy.
“Everybody knew Sean just wanted to genuinely help, that guy, everybody knows it, a police officer like Sean just can’t be replaced,” said Dr. Mike Hummel, a Charleroi officer and a professor at PennWest California.
Hummel taught Sluganski when he went back to school at PennWest California to finish his bachelor’s degree.
Hummel also worked the beat in Washington County alongside a young Sluganski.
“He was genuinely a good, a good police officer. The definition of good is what is in your heart,” Hummel said.
Hummel told Channel 11 Sluganski’s goal was to build a career in policing and had the power of leadership to go far with a desire to serve.
“Someone from McKeesport one of the detectives called me about him and he says, ‘do you know Sean Sluganski?’ and I said, ‘yeah,’ he’s like, ‘would you hire him?’ I’m like, ‘if I had the opportunity to hire him, I’d hire him right now, he’d be in my top three picks,’” Hummel said.
“Education makes us such a better professional to go out there and diffuse situations and work with people better. That’s what Sean had in mind,” Hummel said.
A commitment to building a future that was cut too short.
“You won’t be able to replace a guy of that caliber of that quality. He will never be forgotten. His great service and sacrifice will never be forgotten. I want to go out and work harder for him,” Hummel said.
Those who loved Sluganski are preparing their final goodbyes, with his funeral set for next week.
How the community is remembering Officer Sluganski
A lone teddy bear with a letter addressed to the McKeesport Police Family marks the spot where 32-year-old McKeesport Officer Sean Sluganski lost his life.
“To lose any police officer I can’t even begin to tell you how hard and gut-wrenching it is, how heartbreaking it is but to see a life like Officer Sluganski be taken in a senseless act of violence with a little baby at home with a mother of his baby planning to get married it’s just horrific,” said Mayor Michael Cherepko.
The mayor of McKeesport describing the situation as a nightmare. Police told Channel 11 Sluganski responded to a call Monday afternoon when he was gunned down by Johnathan Morris.
While he only joined the McKeesport force full time, two years ago, he is described as a dedicated officer who loved the community.
“The minute the chief and I had the chance to sit down and talk with him and meet we said we got to keep this guy. You could see his passion, you could see his personality and we weren’t wrong. For two years he came to work and dedicated his life, risked his life with an extremely positive attitude,” Cherepko said.
Sluganski was a graduate of Baldwin-Whitehall School District, but was a student of Superintendent Dr. Randy Lutz when he was the middle school principal.
“He was so dedicated to people and that’s what I kept hearing from people. Fearless but not fearless reckless but fearless to protect nearly anybody,” Dr. Lutz said.
A hockey player who grew up to become a police officer. While Lutz watched the coverage play out, he had no idea Sluganski was the officer killed in the line of duty.
“When it turned into a local connection, especially one so close to me professionally and personally, it just really gives you an opportunity to pause and reflect and feel proud first of all that he was one of ours and doing such fantastic work keeping people safe that makes you proud but also you think about the other side and it’s just sad,” Dr. Lutz said.
While officers across the region prepare to say a final goodbye, the mayor is looking at the future.
“We will get through this the resilience of our community is absolutely incredible we pull together. We will get through this but it’s never going to be forgotten,” Cherepko said.
A community-organized candlelight vigil will take place at the Blue Top Pavilion in Renzie Park at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
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