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11 Investigates: Why do police conduct undercover drug busts in busy areas?

ROSS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A deadly police-involved shootout outside of a shopping center along a busy road has many people asking questions.

An agent from the Office of the Attorney General met Omari Thompson in the parking lot of Big Lots on McKnight Road around 1 p.m. Monday, and a short time later there was a shootout.

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Attorney General Josh Shapiro told Channel 11 his agents don't always have control about where the undercover stings happen, but a former agent told reporter Renee Wallace that's not always the case.

"In the world of drug enforcement, the officers, just like the drug dealers, can always end the transaction and the officers should do so when there is a clear and present danger to innocent children and civilians," a former agent with the AG's office who asked to remain anonymous said.

The shopping center where this happened is home to a Big Lots, a Subway restaurant, a day care and a doctor's office.

"It is a fact that these activities are going on in those very same places every single day. They are exchanging drugs, cutting deals, they are happening in all our populated areas," Beth Pittinger, director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board, said.

Pittinger also said this is something of which police need to be cognizant.

"If you're undercover, you can't say to your target, 'Can we go down the street to this isolated secluded area and conduct this?' That's not going to work. You have to conduct the business where it is occurring," she said.

Attorney General Shapiro told Channel 11 his officers do not get to dictate the terms of every undercover location, and it was the suspect's decision to fire on police.

Channel 11 learned Thompson has drug convictions dating back to 2007. At the time of the shooting, he was serving a three-year probation sentence for a 2016 drug and gun possession conviction.