Frustrated relatives of a man shot and killed by police during a home invasion call earlier this year are irate that neither the apparent home invader nor the officers who opened fire in the incident will face homicide charges in his death.
The family of a man who was mistakenly shot and killed by Pittsburgh police officers who were responding to a reported home invasion demanded Tuesday that homicide charges be filed in the case.
Two Pittsburgh police officers shot and killed Christopher Thompkins, 57, in January while responding to a reported home burglary in Pittsburgh’s Larimer neighborhood.
When police responded to the burglary and attempted to gain entry into the home in the 100 block of Finley Street, Thompkins began firing shots in the direction of officers who were on the front porch, Pittsburgh police spokeswoman Sonya Toler said. She said the officers returned fire, killing him.
Juan Brian Jetter-Clark, the man who prompted the police response, was in court Tuesday and waived his right to a full hearing on a charge of trespassing in connection with the incident.
Thompkins’ relatives were more than willing to share their outrage with Channel 11 News over the fact that Jeter-Clark was only charged with trespassing.
I have a great deal of sympathy for the Thompkins family, who simply want someone to face charges in this incident.
Jetter-Clark, the apparent trespasser who prompted the home invasion call, is the logical person to hand a homicide charge on in the context of this incident, if he was an actual home invader. The fact that he was only charged with trespassing, however, suggests that there was no physical evidence of an attempt to gain entry into the home. Otherwise, this would seem to be a be a good time to apply the felony murder rule, which under Pennsylvania law, would have brought a second-degree murder charge against Jetter-Clark.
I also understand why the Thompkins family might want charges brought against the officers who killed Mr. Thompkins, but they need to grasp the fact that they were just on the scene and were merely returning fire when Mr. Thompkins opened fire on them first. Apparently both the officers and the homeowner each thought the other was the home invader. Officers have a clear right to return fire to protect themselves. Ultimately, Thompkins paid the price for not identifying who he was shooting at before using deadly force.
It’s a horrific situation all the way around, and sometimes what someone considers “justice” simply can’t be found.
This should also serve as a lesson to us about target discrimination and the importance of a handheld tactical light to search for potential threats. If Mr. Thompkins had merely pointed a flashlight and identified the officers instead of opening fire, he would probably still be alive today.