York County solicitor Michael Flannelly, representing the county's Quick Response Team, confirmed depositions were being taken.
Yvonne Gouseff, 54, who lived in the 2400 block of West Broad Street, was shot and killed Sept. 3, 2004, after she pointed a .357 Magnum handgun at two QRT members, police said.
Township police were called to her home after she met a UPS deliveryman at her door while holding a handgun and acting strangely, state police said. She did not point the weapon at him or threaten him, police said. Afterward, the deliveryman called 911.
When West Manchester Township Police were unable to get Gouseff to open the door or respond to them, Chief Arthur Smith Jr. called in QRT, which is a SWAT-like unit.
But several hours of QRT negotiations failed to persuade Gouseff to put down the weapon and surrender. At some point, negotiators lost contact with her, according to search-warrant applications filed by state police investigating her death at the request
of District Attorney Stan Rebert.
Officers went inside: The decision was made to send team members inside to do a "breach and hold" limited entry into the home, according to the documents.
A "breach and hold" is a standard tactic in which officers open an entryway into a building -- such as a window or door -- but don't immediately go inside, according to John Gnagey, executive director of the Doylestown-based National Tactical Officers Association. The object is to persuade a subject to either surrender or re-establish negotiations, he said.
As the officers were making the limited entry, Gouseff pointed a handgun at them, court documents state; the officers gave her "numerous" verbal commands to drop the gun, but she continued to approach them. Two of the QRT members fired one shot each at Gouseff, according to the documents.
She was hit once in the upper left chest, police said, and pronounced dead at York Hospital.
After reviewing the state police investigation, Rebert ruled that "the use of deadly force was appropriate" and that circumstances observed by the officers "made it apparent that they were in immediate danger."
"I don't think they had any option at that point," Rebert said.
Widower blames police: But in his lawsuit -- filed in U.S. Middle District Court in November 2004 against York County and nine individual QRT officers from four area police departments -- Valentine Gouseff contends his wife did nothing unlawful.
"Upon Mrs. Gouseff's decision not to allow police to enter her house ... the police Quick Response Unit .... surrounded the Gouseff house, saturated it with tear gas, held her by siege for approximately 10 hours, and then ultimately entered the house by force, without her permission, and against her wishes, and shot her dead," according to the plaintiff's statement of the case.
Valentine Gouseff also claims QRT members weren't properly trained.
However, a defense statement filed by Flannelly states that team members received adequate specialized training.
Other defense filings state that the officers "were forced to protect themselves from Yvonne Gouseff who was pointing a loaded .357 handgun at the officers. ..."
The defense also maintains that by confronting the UPS deliveryman with a loaded weapon Gouseff created "an immediate danger to responding police officers, neighbors, passers-by and herself," and that police lawfully entered her home.
Valentine Gouseff's lawsuit claims his wife's civil rights and Fourteenth Amendment (due process) rights were violated. The suit seeks compensatory damages, costs of litigation, allowable interest and attorneys' fees.
Flannelly declined to discuss specifics of the case. Gouseff's Harrisburg attorney, Spero Lappas, and York City solicitor Don Hoyt could not be reached for comment.
In addition to York County and Smith, the West Manchester Township police chief, eight police officers are named as defendants in the lawsuit. All serve or served on the QRT team and were dispatched to the Gouseff home that night.
They are: Capt. Wes Kahley, Detective Tony Fetrow, Sgt. Craig Losty, Sgt. Erik Kleynen and Officer Roger Nestor, all of the York City Police Department; Detective Nathan Zech, now deceased, and Patrolman Brian Alu of Springettsbury Township Police; and Sgt. George Wasilko of Northern York County Regional Police.
-- Reach Elizabeth Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-5429.