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Pennsylvania police officer's murder trial to begin


HARRISBURG — Prosecutors say a central Pennsylvania police officer deserves to go to prison for shooting an unarmed motorist in the back. The officer's lawyer calls it a case of self-defense.

Opening arguments are scheduled for Tuesday in the murder trial of Hummelstown police officer Lisa Mearkle, who fatally shot 59-year-old David Kassick after he fled from a Feb. 2 traffic stop. The shooting was captured by a camera attached to the officer's stun gun.

Mearkle, 37, shocked Kassick four times with the stun gun, then shot him twice in the back, four seconds apart, according to police. The 15-year veteran told investigators she fired because he would not show her his hands and she thought he was reaching into his jacket for a gun.

Authorities said Mearkle had attempted to pull over Kassick for expired inspection and emissions stickers and he sped away. She caught up to Kassick near his sister's home, where he had been living, and incapacitated him with the stun gun. He was face down on the ground when she shot him, police said.

It's unknown why Kassick fled, but he had problems with substance abuse and police recovered a syringe near his body that might have been his. Prosecutors have said alcohol and unspecified drugs were found in his system.

Mearkle was suspended without pay after her arrest. She remains on electronic monitoring while out on bail.

She's charged with third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter.

Dauphin County Judge Deborah Curcillo barred authorities from publicly releasing the video taken from the stun gun, saying it would jeopardize Mearkle's right to a fair trial. Lawyers for PA Media Group, which publishes in Harrisburg, filed a motion last week asking for release of the video as soon as it is shown at trial.