DA: Police-involved shooting death in York justified
York County District Attorney Tom Kearney has concluded the death of a Maryland man at the hands of Pennsylvania state troopers in Springfield Township last year was justified.
Joseph Penderghest, 40, was fatally shot by troopers William Colvin and Thomas Wright on August 8, 2014 in a parking lot of an apartment building in the 6800 block of Reynolds Mill Road.
A report released Thursday detailed the findings of the investigation, which determined the troopers' decision to use deadly force came in response to Penderghest charging the troopers with a raised knife.
The cause of death was listed as multiple gunshot wounds to the body. The manner of death is justifiable homicide, according to Kearney's report.
His last hours: The report outlined what Penderghest was doing beginning at around 6:30 p.m. on the day of his death.
Penderghest left the 200-block of South Charlotte Street in Manheim with Amber Stahl, 21 at the time, and her 1-year-old daughter, Kiley Rodriguez, the report detailed.
According to an interview conducted with Stahl the morning after the incident, they were traveling to Penderghest's home in Bethesda, Md., to retrieve "several rifles" to move into storage. Stahl had known Penderghest, who she called "John," through his ex-wife, Jacqueline Shay.
As they traveled through Hershey, Penderghest pointed out a building as the "CIA headquarters," and he began telling Stahl that he believed the CIA, FBI and other agencies were spying on and stalking him, according to the report.
He eventually started accusing Stahl of working with those agencies, which Stahl continually declined.
As they traveled along I-83 south, they approached a work zone, which increased Penderghest's paranoia, and he drove in the restricted lane as he approached Exit 10, which was barricaded, according to the report.
He drove past the barricade and stopped the car, more vehemently accusing Stahl of being an informant and pulled a gun from his lap and waved it toward Stahl. She pushed the gun away, causing one shot to be fired, and grabbed her daughter from the car seat in the back and ran to Rutter's at 362 W. Main St. in Springfield Township, according to the report.
Penderghest proceeded to travel across Exit 10, intentionally crossing the yellow lines to exit the roadway, striking a shrub and utility pole. Neither slowed him down as he continued into an apartment complex parking lot, where he struck one parked car and then another, which was pushed into a third car, according to the report.
After receiving a 911 call from an apartment resident, Colvin and Wright arrived on the scene, where they found Penderghest in the vehicle, holding a knife and cutting his wrists, according to the report.
When Penderghest wouldn't heed Colvin's command to drop the knife, Colvin used pepper spray, which didn't have a noticeable effect on Penderghest.
Colvin and Wright then used their Tasers, which also weren't effective, as Penderghest exited his vehicle, holding the knife and telling the troopers to "shoot me," according to the report.
Colvin and Wright pulled out their pistols as Penderghest pulled the knife up toward his chest and took a step toward them.
They fired several rounds until he fell to the ground, the report stated. Colvin radioed for EMS assistance before the two moved toward Penderghest, who then got up, still holding the knife, and moved toward the troopers.
Colvin fired one shot, which did not stop his advancement, and Penderghest lunged at them, causing Colvin and Wright to fire several more rounds, fatally wounding Penderghest, the report detailed.
Ongoing paranoia: In interviews following the incident, multiple friends of Penderghest — including Stahl and Shay — said his paranoia involving government agencies had been going on for months and had intensified a couple weeks earlier when his wife had left without telling him where she was going.
Penderghest continually ignored friends' advice to seek professional help, they said, because he believed he was too smart, as he previously worked for NASA. He was unemployed at the time of the incident, according to the report.
Penderghest often wore a bulletproof vest because he thought the government agencies were after him. The vest was found on his body after death, and a grenade was discovered in his home.
—Reach David Weissman at email@example.com.