DA: Shooting of unarmed man justified

An April 8 shooting of an unarmed man by Altoona police April 8 was justified, Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio announced Thursday.

Consiglio said the investigation into the shooting by state police and his office “clearly revealed that the officer was in the performance of his duty investigating the suspicious actions of a civilian in a dark alley at approximately 4:30 a.m., when he was suddenly confronted by the civilian, who appeared to have a black weapon in his hands,” Consiglio said in a statement.

The man appeared to raise his hands as if to point at the officer and was shot in the shoulder, Consiglio noted. After the shooting, it was discovered the man was actually holding a pair of black underwear and that he was unclothed from the waist down, except for his shoes, Consiglio added.

Consiglio said because no charges were filed, his office wouldn’t release the names of either man. State police also declined to name either man and deferred to Consiglio.

The man’s attorney, Doug Stoehr, said Thursday he’s given notice to city and Altoona police officials that his client, who he also declined to name, intends to pursue a civil case against the city.

The city’s insurance company, Stoehr said, has already contacted him about the matter.

Stoehr disputes the police and Consiglio’s version of what happened that morning and said his client was walking down the alley, toward his apartment, “carrying an article of clothing that in no way resembled a weapon.

Stoehr contends his client “was not unclothed from the waist down and was not charged with any public indecency.”

“The officer exited his vehicle with his gun already drawn and shot my client without cause,” Stoehr said in a statement issued Thursday. “My client is slightly built, nonthreatening and was not under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.”

Stoehr said his client spent three days in the hospital and continues his recovery, one that has involved three specialists. The man may have permanent nerve damage, Stoehr said, that extends down from the shoulder wound to his right elbow and through to his fingertips.

Stoehr said the men were mere feet apart and he questioned why a nonlethal weapon, such as a stun gun, wasn’t used or why the officer didn’t shine light on the man.

“The true facts will come out in the civil claim,” Stoehr said.

Consiglio said in his statement the shooting was ultimately caused by Stoehr’s client.

“The civilian’s injury, while certainly regrettable, occurred due to the civilians own conduct, which was the major contributing factor in the incident,” Consiglio said in a statement.

“He’s very lucky he wasn’t killed or more seriously hurt,” Consiglio said when contacted about the investigation Thursday.

Altoona Police Chief Janice Freehling said Patrolman Mark Sprouse is the officer involved in shooting on the 300 block of Fourth Avenue Alley, and he was immediately put on desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation by the district attorney’s office and state police.

“We can now proceed with our incident review,” Freehling said Thursday, referring to the internal look at whether the officer followed proper protocols.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.