PITTSBURGH, PA – Pittsburgh police will send samples of their ammunition for testing because officers worry about the bullets’ stopping power.
“If there’s an issue, which we don’t think there is, we will make sure we change it,” Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant said Friday.
She said the problem could be where officers are hitting suspects.
Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 first raised concerns over a shooting March 17 in which police said Dante Bonner, 18, fired at Officer Christopher Kertis even after the suspect was hit during a gun battle in East Liberty. Those concerns were heightened Thursday, when Officer Morgan Jenkins was critically injured in a shootout with a fleeing suspect in Homewood, identified by police as James Robert Hill, 24, of Homewood.
“Any time our officers fire at an individual and the individual is able to return fire, the officers are concerned with why,” Bryant said. “There’s a lot of factors why.”
Officer Eric Engelhardt, chairman of the FOP’s officer safety committee, said the union wants a review of the ammunition.
“We’re going to look at it,” he said. “That’s all we’ve said from the beginning.”
Police chose the Federal Premium Law Enforcement HST .40-caliber ammunition in 2008 based on an FBI comparison study.
“It comes down to shot placement,” said Officer John Lubawski, who oversees firearms training at the police academy. “There is no bullet out there that will cause an actor to immediately cease.”
Acting Chief Regina McDonald said Philadelphia police use the same ammunition. Police there did not return a message seeking comment.
Acting Cmdr. Kevin Kraus said Hill was able to return fire as police shot him as many as five times during the exchange about 1:30 a.m. Thursday near Chaucer Street in Homewood. The incident began when Hill, who was on the run from a halfway house for a year, fled from Jenkins and Officer Michelle Auge when they tried to stop his speeding vehicle. He crashed the car on Apple Street, and then fought with the officers.
Auge tried to use her Taser on Hill, but inadvertently spread the shock among the two officers and Hill, said Lt. Daniel Herrmann. She broke two fingers and fractured her orbital bone during the fight.
Hill ran away with Jenkins in pursuit. Hill fired multiple times at Jenkins, hitting him once in the left arm, Herrmann said. The bullet traveled into his chest, nicked his lung and stopped close to his spine, Herrmann said. Jenkins and Auge fired at Hill, but Herrmann would not say how many shots each fired.
Doctors removed the bullet from Jenkins’ back; he remained in the intensive care unit in UPMC Presbyterian, said the police lieutenant.
“His spirits are well,” Herrmann said. “His family is thankful for all the response of the city of Pittsburgh.”
Hill is in serious but stable condition at Presby under police guard, Kraus said.
A police critical-incident review board, which includes three commanders, will look into the shooting to determine if the department should address any training issues or policy violations, McDonald said.