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Pa. police officers ‘ambushed’ responding to domestic disturbance, one killed

Two police officers were ambushed and one of them was fatally shot, in Canonsburg, Pa., on Thursday, Nov. 10 after they responded to a call. (Video: Reuters)

Two police officers were shot while responding to a domestic disturbance call early Thursday in Canonsburg, Pa., a town about 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. One officer has died as a result.

Neighbors of 47-year-old Michael Cwiklinski and his 28-year-old partner Dalia Sabae called 911 about 3:15 a.m. to report a domestic disturbance. Immediately, two officers — Scott Bashioum and Jimmy Saieva — separately rushed to the scene.

They were “ambushed upon their arrival,” state police Trooper Melinda Bondarenka told the Associated Press. “They were immediately fired upon.”

Both officers were struck.

Washington County Coroner S. Timothy Warco told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Cwiklinski, who is suspected of having fired on the officers, then turned his gun on Sabae, whom he fatally shot in the head. Some outlets, such as WTAE,  have reported that she was pregnant.

After killing Sabae, Cwiklinski then allegedly fatally shot himself.

Bashioum and Saieva were rushed to Allegheny General Hospital, where Bashioum died. As of Thursday evening, Saieva was conscious and in stable condition.

Cwiklinski has a past of domestic abuse. In November 2015, he was charged with simple assault and harassment after he allegedly swung a bag of merchandise, hitting Sabae in the eye with it.

That complaint, obtained by WTAE, stated Cwiklinski “became upset and struck victim in the face with a bag containing merchandise. This injured victim’s right eye. Victim was unable to report this until this date because of the controlling environment victim lives in. Cwiklinski refused to permit his wife to receive medical attention.”

Eventually, the assault charge was dropped when he pleaded guilty to harassment. As a result, he was forced to take anger management classes and have a mental health evaluation, the AP reported.

Last month, Sabae received a protection-from-abuse order.

“She told me they were having trouble again,” defense attorney David Wolf, who represented Cwiklinski in November 2015, told the AP.

It was her second protection-from-abuse order. In filing for the first, WTAE reported that Sabae said Cwiklinski “hit her in the stomach, pushed and hit her and used sex to threaten her about her green card.” And, according to neighbors, police were called to the couple’s home on a regular basis, the AP reported.

Bashioum, 52, the fallen police officer, was a married father of four who was beloved by the community.

“He was born to help people,” Slovan Fire Chief Brandon Kriznik told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He was always meant to serve.”

“He is a great guy, top to bottom. One of the best people I know inside and out,” District Judge David Mark told the newspaper. “I can’t imagine what the family is going through.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all flags in Washington County to fly at half-staff, and he released a statement concerning the shooting, in which he offered condolences to those who knew Bashioum. It read:

On behalf of [my wife] Frances, myself, and all Pennsylvanians, I offer my deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of deceased Canonsburg Police Officer Scott Bashioum and the female victim of the shooting, and wish a full and quick recovery to the second officer recovering from injuries. These officers put their lives on the line to protect their neighbors and one of them made the ultimate sacrifice. For that, we will always be grateful. I also want to thank the local law enforcement and the Pennsylvania State Police for their swift response and work to keep others safe.

Meanwhile, a makeshift memorial, with flowers, balloons, stuffed animals and a Bible, has formed around the Canonsburg municipal building.

Through Thursday, there have been 57 officers shot and killed in the line of duty this year, according to preliminary statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that tracks police deaths.

In a report covering the first half of the year, the fund said that more than half of the officers fatally shot by suspects were shot in ambushes.

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