A police officer was justified when he shot and killed a suicidal Conewago Township man who'd fired on police inside his home last week, according to York County District Attorney Tom Kearney.
Kearney said Clifton Thomson was trying to draw police fire, known as committing suicide by cop.
"Mr. Thomson had not only clearly stated his intent to commit suicide, but by initially firing his weapon in the direction of the officers inside the home, and again by advancing and shouldering his weapon and pointing it at the officers outside, acted in a manner to provoke the officers into aiding him in the act," Kearney wrote in a four-page memorandum released Thursday afternoon.
Thomson, 72, of the 400 block of Hykes Mill Road, was shot by
At the time, Thomson had shouldered his .30-30 rifle and was moving toward the officer, according to Kearney.
Just prior to that, Thomson had run outside to his back patio after firing a single shot in his dining room. Kearney said Thomson fired at officers from about 10 feet away. No officers were hurt.
Called hotline: Police were dispatched to the rural home after Thomson called a mental-health crisis hotline and told them he had a gun and was planning to shoot himself, according to Kearney.
Officers alerted Thomson's wife to what was happening and got her out of the home safely, then tried to negotiate with Thomson to put down the gun so they could get him help, the memorandum states.
Thomson fired at the officers, then ran outside, where the fatal confrontation occurred.
An autopsy showed Thomson suffered a single gunshot wound to the head, the county coroner's office said.
Cop in danger: It's "beyond question" that officers' fears for their own safety were reasonable, according to Kearney, who said the officer who fatally shot Thomson was "clearly" in danger of death or serious injury.
"Their intention was to help prevent violence, not cause it," Kearney said of the officers. "Mr. Thomson's actions were designed to draw the response of deadly force by the officers."
The memorandum clears the Northern Regional officer involved to return to active duty. The officer's name has not been made public.
Northern Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel said the officer returned to work Thursday night. He was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, which Bentzel said is standard practice.
Second probe: State police handled the official investigation into Thomson's shooting death, but Northern Regional Police also mounted an internal investigation.
"We conducted an administrative investigation ... designed to look for policy compliance," Bentzel said. "Our administrative investigation, which was completed (Wednesday), found that all officers acted appropriately and in compliance with departmental guidelines."
Not a monster: Thomson's widow, Joan Thomson, said she believes her husband committed suicide by cop. She also said she doesn't think he wanted to hurt officers.
He battled anxiety and depression for many years, she said.
Karen Hartman has said her father never got the proper help for his mental-health issues.
"I just want people to know he wasn't a monster," she told The York Dispatch.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.