Pennsylvania police officer charged with killing unarmed man

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Story highlights

  • Police Officer Lisa Mearkle faces homicide charge for shooting an unarmed man
  • David Kassick, 59, was shot and killed after fleeing a traffic stop

(CNN)The emissions sticker on David Kassick's car was expired.

That's what first caught the attention of Lisa Mearkle, a police officer in Hummelstown Borough, Pennsylvania, who ordered Kassick, 59, to pull over on February 2.
Instead, Kassick fled. Moments later, he lay dead on the ground in a yard near a relative's home.
    On Tuesday, Mearkle was arrested on a homicide charge following a state police investigation into the shooting.
    Mearkle's attorney, who described the use of deadly force in the case as justified, said he is girding his client for national scrutiny as the case finds itself on a growing list of officer-involved shootings.
    The final moments leading to Kassick's death were captured on video which Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico Jr. said was critical in bringing the homicide charges.
    It was around 4 p.m. on February 2 when the 15-year police veteran first attempted to pull Kassick over, according to the charging documents.
    Instead of pulling over, Kassick took off and Mearkle gave chase, flipping on her lights and sirens.
    Less than a mile away, Kassick pulled into the driveway of a relative he'd been staying with and ran off on foot into the backyard, with Mearkle following close behind.
    As they ran through the yards behind Grandview Drive, the charging documents said, Mearkle fired her stun gun, automatically engaging a built-in audio and visual recording device.
    Marsico described the video:
    "She's running, she's tasing him, he falls to the ground. He's sort of writhing around on the ground a little bit," Marsico said.
    Standing several feet behind his prone body, Mearkle shouts for Kassick to show his hands.
    Despite the commands, Marsico said there were multiple points in the videos where Kassick is seen reaching beneath himself, his hands obscured to Mearkle.
    Holding the Taser in her left hand, court documents said, Mearkle drew her gun in her right hand and, while continuing to shout "show me your hands," fired twice into Kassick's back.
    Kassick was pronounced dead at the scene. He was unarmed.
    Marsico said the video was critical in determining the first criminal charges brought against a police officer in a shooting like this in his 15 years as district attorney.
    "He was face down on the ground, no weapon had been displayed. He didn't approach her, he didn't come toward her, he didn't verbally threaten her in any way," Marsico said of Kassick. "It's our position that her use of deadly force was not necessary."
    CNN has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the video, which it has not independently viewed.
    Mearkle later told investigators she thought Kassick had been reaching into his jacket for a gun, according to court documents.
    "What was she supposed to do?" Mearkle's attorney, Brian Perry said. "She felt that this was the only option that she had."
    "Keep in mind she had tased this individual four times and was screaming commands to him and he kept reaching under," Perry said.
    Mearkle was placed on electronic monitoring on Tuesday after posting $250,000 bail.
    "This was an extremely difficult case for all involved but in the end, we are servants of Justice and must now allow the judicial process to conduct a fair and impartial review of the allegations that have been presented," the Borough of Hummelstown said in a statement.
    Hummelstown Borough announced on Wednesday that Mearkle had been suspended from the Police Department without pay.