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DA: Dragged PSP trooper justified in killing fleeing driver
A state trooper was justified in fatally shooting an out-of-state driver who fled a traffic stop and dragged the trooper a third of a mile down Interstate 83, according to York County District Attorney Tom Kearney.
Rasheem Dinero Singletary, 25, of Petersburg, Virginia, died at the scene of the Nov. 15, 2016, incident, officials said.
State police reviewed the killing of Singletary by state police Trooper Wesley Johnson, then turned over their findings to Kearney, who ruled the homicide justifiable and released his memorandum about it Thursday, Nov. 16.
According to that memorandum, state police determined that Johnson pulled over Singletary near the Emigsville exit (Exit 24) about 12:45 p.m. and that Singletary got out of his mother's Ford Focus and started out being cooperative, although he lied about his identity.
Singletary gave his brother's name, but Johnson realized that wasn't true after patting down Singletary and finding the man had hidden his real identification in the crotch of his pants, according to the memo.
Singletary broke free as Johnson was trying to handcuff him, ignoring multiple commands from the trooper to stop, officials said.
Took off: Johnson shocked Singletary with a Taser, but the man was still able to drive away — with Johnson hanging onto the side, according to Kearney's memorandum.
The driver-side door was open, and Johnson was stuck between the open door and Singletary, officials said.
"In fear for his life and the lives of others, Tpr Johnson drew his issued Sig Sauer P227 pistol and fired 11 rounds," the memorandum states.
Just before the shooting, Singletary did what he could to stop Johnson from pulling his weapon, according to the memorandum, which states the fleeing driver put his hands on the holster of Johnson's pistol.
After killing Singletary, Johnson managed to slow down the man's car by using his left foot to brake.
"The car slowed enough that he was able to roll out of it sustaining only minor injuries," the memo states.
Pinned against median: Once Johnson rolled free, the car accelerated and crashed into the back of a flatbed truck, and ended up pinned against the concrete center barrier by the truck, according to the memorandum.
An examination of the event-data recorder in Singletary's car — similar to the "black box" in an airplane — revealed that five seconds before the car crashed into the flatbed, it was going about 47 mph, but that at 2.5 seconds prior to the crash, it had accelerated to 52 mph, the memorandum states.
Much of the incident was recorded by the dashboard camera in the cruiser Johnson was driving that day, Kearney said.
Singletary had told Johnson he was traveling from Virginia to New York for a death in the family, which was later determined not to be true, the memorandum states. Singletary's mother later told troopers he was going to New York to visit his girlfriend, who would not speak with investigators.
Convicted criminal: Johnson checked Singletary's record via his radio and learned the man had an extensive criminal history for assault, weapons violations and drug offenses, according to Kearney.
At the time of the incident, state police said Singletary was trying to crush Johnson against the highway's concrete center barrier.
The subsequent state police investigation determined Singletary was on parole for a New York drug conviction and that while on parole and living in Virginia, he was arrested there for delivery of drugs, according to the memorandum. He also had a suspended driver's license.
An autopsy of Singletary's body showed he suffered nine gunshot wounds to the torso, head, neck and arms.
A search of his belongings from inside the trunk of the car uncovered two pistols, ammunition and marijuana, plus various debit cards and credit cards, officials said. He was carrying about $784 cash on him at the time, according to the memorandum.
What trucker saw: The driver of the flatbed truck, Duane Gingerich, told investigators he saw the struggle between Johnson and Singletary, the memorandum states; the driver's statement confirmed Johnson's account.
"(Johnson) was doing everything he was supposed to do," Gingerich said, according to the memorandum.
The truck driver also reported seeing Johnson and newly arrived troopers trying to help Singletary and render first aid to him.
Kearney wrote that the dash-cam footage makes it "abundantly clear" why Johnson would have been in fear for his life at the time he shot Singletary:
"From the berm, the vehicle veers through both lanes of travel toward the median barrier. Tpr Johnson reasonably believed he was being taken to the median to be knocked off the speeding and accelerating vehicle. As the vehicle reached the median the (dash-cam) audio clearly picks up the sound of the vehicle's door scraping the concrete median."
Kearney wrote that it's "clear to any reasonable person" that Singletary was an immediate danger to Johnson, and therefore the trooper was justified in fatally shooting the fleeing man.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.