JOHNSTOWN - The widow of a Bedford County man killed by a state police sharpshooter nearly two years ago has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the shooting was not justified.
Nellie M. Guyton of 184 Yellow Creek Drive, Hopewell, states that her husband, Chester L. Guyton, 67, suffered from diabetes and other physical ailments on March 30, 2010, when police were called to the family home because of concerns that Guyton was "distraught" and may harm himself.
Pittsburgh attorney Michael Louik, in the lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court, contends the shooting was unjustified and that it was "excessive, unwarranted, grossly negligent, recklessly indifferent, willful, deliberate and outrageous."
Police were aware of Guyton's "debilitated physical and mental condition and that [Guyton] was not resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest," Louik wrote in the lawsuit.
Twelve state troopers arrived including members of a Special Emergency Response Team who are trained to negotiate with individuals in crisis situations.
After a confrontation of about 90 minutes, a SERT member fired one shot into Chester Guyton's chest, killing him. The trooper who fired the shot did not face criminal charges.
The lawsuit is against a state police lieutenant and sergeant, two members of the response team and the state police.
Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins said he reviewed Guyton's medical records, interviews with family members, and a state police tape of the action and concluded that from all indications, Guyton was suicidal.
Guyton had access to two handguns during the standoff and had aimed a gun at police, according to Higgins in a June 2010 report.
Higgins stated he didn't know how police could have responded any differently, noting, "This was an example of exemplary police work."
Louik takes issue with Higgins' conclusion that Guyton was suicidal and attempting to draw police fire that day.
Prior to the shooting, Guyton was standing idly in a grassy field rubbing his legs to alleviate pain or discomfort, the lawsuit stated. He raised his right hand but there was no need "for any split-second or hurried judgment."
The civil lawsuit has been referred to the federal court's Alternative Dispute Resolution program to determine if it can be settled through mediation.
"We cannot comment because it is pending litigation," a state police spokesperson in Harrisburg said Thursday.
Louik said he preferred to let the lawsuit speak for itself.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.