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Man accused of killing rookie police officer in small-town Pennsylvania has been captured

November 21, 2017 at 12:12 PM

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suspect in the fatal shooting last week of a Pennsylvania police officer who had been less than a year on the job is in custody after a massive manhunt. (Reuters)

The man who authorities say shot and killed a Pennsylvania police officer was caught Tuesday morning following a manhunt that lasted nearly 3 1/2 days.

Pennsylvania State Police announced early Tuesday that authorities had apprehended Rahmael Sal Holt, who is accused of fatally shooting New Kensington Police Officer Brian Shaw following a Friday night traffic stop about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said at a news conference Tuesday that Holt, 29, was arrested at a home in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported that several associates and relatives, including the suspect’s mother, Sherry Holt, and another woman, Aysa Benson, were also arrested and accused of helping Rahmael Holt. Court records show the two have been charged with hindering apprehension, a third-degree felony.

Rahmael Holt has been charged with first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer; murder of the first degree; possession of a firearm; and carrying a firearm without a license, according to an online court docket.

The shooting happened just after 8 p.m. Friday, when Shaw tried to pull over an SUV.

Holt, who was the passenger, jumped out of the moving vehicle and Shaw ran after him, according to an affidavit. Surveillance footage shows Holt running to a nearby parking lot, where authorities said he shot Shaw.

Related: [Suspected cop killer arrested following days-long manhunt, Pennsylvania State Police say]

Peck said Holt fired six shots, striking Shaw multiple times. The officer, who was wearing a vest, was able to radio to the 911 center that he had been shot. He tried to stand up before he fell down and was not able to return fire, Peck told reporters.

The surveillance footage shows Holt running toward the back of a building and into an alley after he shot Shaw, the affidavit said.

The 25-year-old officer, who had been with the New Kensington Police Department for less than a year, died at a hospital less than an hour later. The affidavit said he had multiple gunshot wounds to the torso.

Police later found the SUV not far from where the shooting occurred. The suspected driver, 27-year-old Tavon Jamere Harper, was arrested over the weekend and is facing fleeing and drug-related charges, court records show. Harper told investigators that he was accompanying Holt when Shaw tried to pull them over. After Holt leaped out, Harper said he kept driving, “clipping” Holt as he fled, the affidavit said.

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Authorities said Officer Brian Shaw, a 25-year-old patrolman, was shot and killed on Nov. 18 in New Kensington, Pa. (WPXI)

Peck said investigators received information from “various informants” that led to Holt’s capture. He did not elaborate further.

He said the investigation is still ongoing. The suspect’s weapon has not been found, but Peck said .40-caliber casings were found at the crime scene. Investigators also are still looking for people who had contact with Holt before and after the shooting.

It also remains unclear why Shaw tried to pull over the SUV.

Videos and photos taken by local media Tuesday show Holt wearing a black hooded jacket as he was being led by officers to a small courthouse, where he was arraigned. Jail records show Holt is being held without bail. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported that he would hire a private attorney.

Multiple law enforcement agencies and several residents had offered a total of $55,000 to anyone who could provide information leading to Holt’s capture. Authorities have not said if that money has been awarded to anyone.

Speaking briefly at the news conference Tuesday, New Kensington Police Chief James Klein said Holt’s capture would allow him and his police officers to finally start grieving.

“Our officers are dedicated to providing the best possible service to protect you and keep you safe. There’s no better example than Officer Brian Shaw who gave his life serving this community,” Klein said, taking deep breaths and pausing several times mid-sentence. “I promise you that officers will continue to serve with the same honor that Brian did.”

Klein, as he did in previous news conferences, spoke only for a few minutes and did not take any questions from reporters.

“At this time, it is important for me to spend time with the Shaw family,” he said.

He also asked reporters to refrain from contacting the officer’s family, thanked them and left the news conference before it was over.

Related: [Slain border agent may have been beaten to death by rocks in ‘grisly scene,’ union leader says]

Holt has a lengthy criminal history that stretches back to at least 2007. Court records show he had pleaded guilty to gun and drug charges, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. He does not have a license to carry a firearm, the affidavit said.

Shaw left behind his parents, a brother, a grandmother and his girlfriend, according to his obituary.

He loved working out, hunting and playing with his dogs, Satie May and Gus. He was also a fan of sports and enjoyed playing soccer and football.

Shaw graduated from the Allegheny County Police Academy. He worked as a part-time officer for three other towns before he joined the New Kensington Police Department, the Associated Press reported.

Shaw’s parents, Stephan and Lisa Shaw, watch while their son’s casket is moved into the Rusiewicz Funeral Home in Lower Burrell, Pa., on Nov. 18. (Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via AP)

He attended Burrell High School and Slippery Rock University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and played football for four years.

“Our hearts are broken this morning as we mourn the loss of former Rock football player Brian Shaw, who was killed last night while serving as a police officer in New Kensington,” the university’s athletics department said Saturday on Twitter. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Shaw family and The Rock football brotherhood.”

A procession to move Shaw’s body to the Rusiewicz Funeral Home in Lower Burrell, Pa., where the officer lived, took place Saturday morning. Residents, many of whom carried American flags, and firefighters, all wearing their gear, waited on the streets to pay their respects.

People line the street during the procession of slain New Kensington police officer Brian Shaw in Lower Burrell, Pa., on Nov. 18. (Nate Smallwood/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, via AP)

Read more:

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Kristine Phillips covers national and breaking news for The Washington Post. She previously covered criminal justice, courts and legal affairs at the Indianapolis Star.

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