Use of force expert weighs in on deadly Brentwood officer-involved shooting

BRENTWOOD, Pa. — Twenty-four hours after a Brentwood police officer shot and killed a man on a neighborhood street, the Medical Examiner has identified the suspect as Craig McGrath.

Channel 11 brought you to the scene live yesterday as it was breaking. Investigators say McGrath led police on a chase from South Park to a neighborhood in Brentwood.

>> Suspect killed in Brentwood officer-involved shooting

It ended when police said McGrath rammed a stolen car into a police cruiser, physically fought the officer, and the officer shot and killed him.

Use of force expert and retired Pittsburgh police officer David Wright has had to deal with violent suspects who were carrying weapons in his lengthy career.

“Your stomach drops, and you have to go, you have to react. It’s one of the most stressful things a police officer has to do because you have to make split-second decisions in moments of chaos,” Wright said.

After reviewing the preliminary facts of this case, Wright believes the officer was in imminent danger, and is justified in the deadly shooting.

“He [the suspect] already demonstrated his willingness to harm the officer by ramming the vehicle, and he has the ability with the firearm, and close proximity, and now he’s in a fight… the officer cannot afford to lose this physical fight,” he added.

Community organizer for the Abolitionist Law Center, Tanisha Long disagrees.

In a statement to Channel 11, she said in part:

“Why is the officer enacting a high-speed car chase through a neighborhood? It’s unacceptable for officers to take precautionary lethal action against a person just because they have a firearm.”

In recent years, District Attorney Stephen Zappala has released guidelines for officers and said they should only chase suspects who are facing serious felonies.

Wright says that’s something that will likely be considered in the investigation.

“Do you have a lot of traffic going on? It’s 5 o’clock in the afternoon, they have to judge the need to apprehend at that time versus public safety. That’s something that’s going to constantly be evaluated,” he said.

We did ask the DA’s office to weigh in on whether Zappala felt that a traffic stop for a stolen car rises to the level of a police chase — a spokesperson told us they do not have a comment until Allegheny County Police finish their investigation.

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