Allegheny County sheriff's deputy involved in fatal shooting tested positive for cocaine
Police and other law enforcement officers investigate the scene of a Jan. 6 shooting in Knoxville that occurred when authorities went to serve an arrest warrant at a home.
By Paula Reed Ward and Liz Navrati / PittsburghPost-Gazette
An Allegheny County sheriff's deputy tested positive for cocaine in the hours after he was involved in the fatal shooting of a suspect last month.
Deputy Richard Dwyer has received notice of termination and will go through the grievance process as part of his union rights, officials said.
It’s unclear how much cocaine was in Deputy Dwyer’s system the morning of Jan. 6, when members of a federal fugitive task force went to the Knoxville home of Leslie Sapp III, 47, to arrest him on charges that he sexually assaulted a child. Officials said Sapp confronted officers with an airsoft gun, and several of them opened fire, including Deputy Dwyer.
Sheriff’s department policy requires that any officer who discharges a weapon undergo drug testing. In this case, the urine test for Deputy Dwyer came back positive for cocaine.
District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said Wednesday that Sheriff William P. Mullen ‘‘briefed me personally as soon as he got the results back on this.’’
Mr. Zappala said he had not yet seen the test results, as the sheriff requested that he get a subpoena to obtain them.
‘‘We have not reached a conclusion as to whether that affected the [deputy's] cognitive abilities,’’ Mr. Zappala said, noting that he plans to consult with a toxicologist after he receives the test results to try determine whether Deputy Dwyer was intoxicated at the time of the shooting.
‘‘If an officer is under the influence of drugs and it affects his cognitive skills and somehow this person is dead because he didn’t react properly because of those drugs, that could be involuntary manslaughter,’’ the district attorney said.
Deputy Dwyer did not return a call seeking comment.
Mr. Zappala and Pittsburgh police Chief Cameron McLay, whose officers are leading the investigation, said that detectives continue to gather evidence.
The district attorney said task force members consistently described a scenario in which Sapp, armed with a black gun that shoots pellets, walked down a set of stairs toward the officers ‘‘with both hands on what they believed to be a weapon.’’
It’s unclear who shot first.
Detectives found 15 shell casings from four weapons, Mr. Zappala said. Seven shots struck Sapp. Mr. Zappala said the fatal shot, which traveled upward through Sapp’s heart, was fired by someone using a .40-caliber gun. He said Deputy Dwyer used a .45-caliber gun.
Although officials are considering the shot to the heart the fatal wound, ‘‘There are theories that being hit seven times, the accumulation of that many hits was fatal,’’ Mr. Zappala said.
The district attorney, who ultimately will decide whether to file charges in the case, said he hopes to complete his review of the shooting ‘‘fairly quickly.’’
Sheriff Mullen refused to comment.
Deputy Dwyer was recognized in November at the annual Law Enforcement Agency Directors award ceremony for helping to clear 201 warrants and make 134 fugitive arrests.