DA: Deputy U.S. Marshal Christopher Hill killed by friendly fire
Less than two months after the shooting death of Christopher Hill, a deputy U.S. marshal and York County resident, the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office has revealed that he was killed by friendly fire.
Hill, 45, was working with a U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, which is made up of local and state law enforcement officials, when he was shot and killed Jan. 18 in Harrisburg.
The DA's office said in a statement Thursday, March 1, that another task force member was firing at Kevin Sturgis in self-defense when a bullet passed through a wall and struck Hill.
Sturgis, 31, of Philadelphia, was killed by members of the task force after he ran from the home while shooting at officials.
Investigators initially believed Hill was killed by a bullet fired by Sturgis.
DA's findings: In the statement Thursday, the DA's office said a team of task force members went to the 1800 block of Mulberry Street that morning to serve a warrant for Shayla Pierce, also known as Shayla Towles, 30, for carrying a firearm without a license, terroristic threats and simple assault by physical menace.
The officers knocked on the door and waited a period of time before entering the home and arresting Towles.
The team began securing the first floor when Sturgis, on the second floor, yelled from the top of the stairs, "Are you looking for me?" according to the DA's office.
While descending the stairs, Sturgis fired on the task force members, striking York City Police Officer Kyle Pitts in the elbow.
In response, another task force member returned fire toward Sturgis, and one of the bullets passed through a wall and struck Hill, according to the DA's office.
Members of the task force inside the home retreated through the back door while other members rendered aid to Hill, the statement said.
Sturgis exited the home through the front door and continued firing on deputies, striking one of them, a Harrisburg officer, in the ballistic vest.
Officials then fired at Sturgis, killing him, according to the DA's office.
The DA's office said members of the task force justifiably used force on Sturgis to end the threat.
He "maliciously and unnecessarily set in motion the exchange of gunfire," according to the DA's office.
"Based upon all of these circumstances, Sturgis is responsible for both his own death and the death of Deputy United States Marshal Christopher Hill," the statement reads.
Subsequent investigation led officials to discover that Sturgis was wanted for shooting a pregnant woman in Philadelphia.
“The catalyst which has led us here is a career convicted felon wanted on multiple warrants, the most serious of which was for firing six rounds and striking his pregnant girlfriend with three of them, who then opened fire on law enforcement officers,” U.S. Marshal Martin Pane said Thursday.
Pane serves the middle district of Pennsylvania.
Interim York City Police Chief Troy Bankert declined comment Thursday. He referred questions to the Dauphin County DA's office.
Hill: Hill joined the U.S. Marshals Service in 2006 in Washington, D.C., and transferred to Harrisburg in 2009, according to Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse's office.
He was an Army veteran who served from 1993 to 1996, according to Papenfuse's office.
Pane has said Hill was a firearms instructor and a member of the U.S. Marshals special operations group, which is a highly trained unit.
On Thursday, Pane called Hill "one of the best."
"He was an outstanding deputy," he said.
The U.S. Marshals Service released a statement related to the DA's findings.
"Deputy Hill made the ultimate sacrifice while executing a lawful arrest warrant on a female suspect wanted for terroristic threats. That fact remains. He died a hero while protecting his community from dangerous criminals like the female defendant and the male assailant who opened fire on his team. Those facts remain unchanged too," it read in part.
Pane noted the community's response to Hill's death.
"For me, I'd just like to thank the people in the greater Harrisburg and York community for their outpouring of support for the Hill family," he said. “We continue to ask that you keep them in your thoughts."
Nonprofit group The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation announced in January that the organization will be donating $100,000 to help pay off Hill's mortage.
Hill's surivors include wife Sylvia Nicole (Lee) Hill, their two children and his father, John David Hill.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at email@example.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.