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Fatal police shooting of man acting erratically in York nursing home was justified: district attorney

Patriot-News - 5/3/2024

The police shooting of a 32-year-old man inside a York County nursing home on Thursday was an act of justifiable lethal force, York County District Attorney Dave Sunday said.

Zachariah White, 32, died after being shot twice by a Spring Garden Township Police officer who attempted for several minutes to de-escalate what police described as erratic, threatening behavior inside Rest Haven Rehabilitation Center, according to Sunday.

At a press conference on Friday, Sunday reiterated that police video bodycam leaves him with no doubt that justifiable lethal force was used by the police officer and that the officer followed all protocol to de-escalate the crisis situation.

“In this case where we had body cam it becomes beyond convincing. It’s clear and convincing that it would be legally justified,” Sunday said of the shooting.

He said he and Pennsylvania State Police reviewed the video body cam footage shot by the police officer, and that after reviewing “all known facts, which are obvious and well-documented based on the video footage,” he established a definitive chain of events that lead to the fatal shooting of White by police.

White had left Wellspan York Hospital, walked across several lanes of South George Street and then entered the main entrance of the nursing home by following two other persons into building. He continued his erratic behavior; and police arrived at Rest Haven at 12:58 p.m.

It was not clear what White was being treated for at York Hospital; but he was wearing a hospital bracelet, Sunday said.

Sunday said that in reviewing the bodycam footage and the accounts of witnesses that White had been acting in a threatening manner. He said the officer, who was not identified, attempted to engage White in conversation but he remained agitated, accusing the officer of not being a real police officer.

Upon arrival the officer activated his body camera, Sunday said. He entered the office where White had entered and proceeded to diffuse the tense situation “using de-escalation methods learned from his training and certification in crisis intervention,” Sunday said.

He said the officer attempted to build rapport and relieve stress and concerns that White may have had. White accused the officer of not being a real police officer and asked him to call dispatch for a real police officer. The officer placed the call.

White left the room and went into the hallway; despite the officer asking him not to roam the hallway. White then ran down the main hallway and the officer called for back up. White continued to resist arrest and ran down another hallway, this time entering a patient’s room. There were two residents in their beds and a staff member inside the room.

The police officer attempted to use a Taser but was initially unsuccessful. On the second try the officer tried handcuff him, but White managed to grab the Taser from the police officer, and swung at him with his right fist.

Sunday said White continued to resist arrest and failed to comply with the officer who made multiple requests of him to submit.

White managed to grab the officer’s Taser, and at the same time, swung at the officer with his right fist, Sunday said.

White tried to exit through a window; but the window was secured and he was unable to open it.

The officer continued to get White to comply; and even asked the officer to allow him time to catch his breath.

White then picked a metal leg rest from a wheelchair and threatened the officer with it; at that point, the police officer discharged his gun, Sunday said.

Sunday said White had charged at the officer with the metal object aiming at the officer’s head level to strike him. At that point, Sunday said, the police officer discharged his weapon twice, striking White, who released the metal object and fell to the floor.

Sunday said the investigation continues and includes an autopsy, toxicology and ballistic tests.

“However the video evidence is clear and decisive,” Sunday said. “The officer initially employed multiple non-lethal means of engaging with White consistent with his training.”

Sunday said emergency medical treatment was rendered. He said White died from the gunshot wounds, but Sunday couldn’t confirm whether he died at the scene or after being taken to hospital.

White was not from York; he said his next of kin live in Connecticut, Sunday said.

The district attorney said that while he is convinced that the police officer followed proper training protocol to de-escalate a crisis situation, the shooting remains under investigation.

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