DA: Officers justified in killing York City man

Sean Philip Cotter

The York City Police officers who shot a schizophrenic Fireside-area man to death in October were justified in doing so, York County District Attorney Tom Kearney ruled in a report released Wednesday.

Officers Jeremy Mayer and Stephen Aderhold shot Dequan Lynn Williams, 28, of the 1000 block of Kelly Drive in York City, on Oct. 17 after the he refused to put down a kitchen knife and instead threw it at the officers and charged them, the report states.

After an investigation by state police, troopers turned their findings over to Kearney's office, which ruled it to be a "justifiable homicide." The DA determined the officers' use of deadly force was justified, as Williams had tried to use deadly force against them.

Williams, who was also known as "Dink," suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the report states. His mother, Jacqueline Larry, had called emergency personnel to the home after Williams, who was off his medication, became angry and aggressive, at one point hitting her, according to the report.

“I have a son that is schizophrenia and he is so combative,” she told 911 at 1:35 p.m. that day, the report states. “He’s not on his medications. He’s out of control, very out of control. ... He’s trying to hurt us, not himself.”

She told the 911 dispatchers he was 28 years old but "had the mind of a 3-year-old." She told them he had a knife and probably would pull it on officers.

She would later tell police he'd been hearing voices, and it was getting worse. He'd swing at the air sometimes in an attempt to get rid of the voices, she told police. Williams had spent "significant" time in mental-health facilities before, the report states.

Larry was hoping authorities would take him into custody under what's called a 302 commitment, an emergency short-term mental-health commitment that can be done involuntarily if subjects are ruled to be dangers to themselves or others.

Officers and an ambulance with medical personnel were dispatched, as is normal procedure for a mental-health call, with the officers heading straight to the scene, and medical personnel waiting down the street for officers to secure the scene. The officers arrived in the 1000 block of Kelly Drive at 1:49 p.m.

State police said the officers found Williams outside his home holding a knife. With weapons drawn, Mayer and Aderhold told him several times to put down the knife, state police said. Williams did not do so, instead moving toward police and then backing off a few times, the report says.

Mayer fired his Taser at Williams, but the barbs didn't penetrate his coat, state police say.

That's when Williams threw his knife at one of the officers and immediately charged the other one, state police say. When state police arrived on the scene, a kitchen knife York City Police said Williams had thrown at the officers was across the street from where the encounter happened, the report states..

The officers radioed at 1:50 p.m. that shots were fired and they needed medical personnel, the report states.

The medical personnel immediately pulled up, put Williams in the ambulance and took him to York Hospital, according to state police.

The medical personnel told state police the York City Police officers were trying to apply first aid before the ambulance got there.

It's normal procedure for local departments to cede jurisdiction to state police in officer-involved shootings. York City Police called state police at 2:16 p.m. on the day of the shooting.

Williams died at the hospital from the two gunshot wounds he had suffered — one to the right shoulder and one to the chest, according to the report.

Mayer and Aderhold did not cooperate with the investigation; through the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge's lawyer, they declined to be interviewed, the report states.

State police spoke to several witnesses, who told varying stories about the incident. Williams' mother Larry and her boyfriend told police they had seen Williams with his hands in his pockets, where he often carries knives, the report states. They told police they didn't see him pull the knife on police or throw it at them, though Larry did tell York Hospital staff she saw her son "lunging at the police," the report states.

Both said he stumbled when Mayer Tased him, and the boyfriend, Donald Ehrhart Jr., said Williams had his hands up when the officers shot him.

But several neighbors told police different stories. The two who saw the whole incident told state police Williams threw something shiny at the officers and then lunged at them.

The report states the burden would be on the prosecution to prove this was not a justifiable homicide.

"The officers were not in a position to retreat with complete safety at the time when he charged them," the district attorney's office ruled. They said he had used "deadly force" in throwing the knife, so they were responding in kind.

The case is now closed, the district attorney's office ruled.

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley didn't return a call for comment Wednesday afternoon.

— Reach Sean Cotter atscotter@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at@SPCotterYD.