Mearkle discharged her Taser twice before shooting Kassick in the center of his back, investigators said. Mearkle’s attorney Brian Perry argued the officer acted in self-defense. “She felt like she had to do what she did,” Perry told the Associated Press. “This person was being commanded, begged, ‘show me your hands,’ and he kept going to his waist.”
A one-and-a-half minute video recorded on Mearkle’s Taser gun captured the incident and it led to the homicide charge.
“At the time Officer Mearkle fires both rounds from her pistol, the video clearly depicts Kassick lying on the snow covered lawn with his face toward the ground,” according to the criminal complaint. “Furthermore, at the time the rounds are fired nothing can be seen in either of Kassick’s hands, nor does he point or direct anything toward Officer Mearkle.”
The charges comes at a time of increased national scrutiny over police shootings of unarmed civilians, some of which have also been captured on video.
“We don’t live in a vacuum, we know what’s going on in this country,” Marsico said at the news conference, the Patriot-News reported. “Today speaks volumes … where the evidence shows that charges should be filed, we will not hesitate.”
Kassick’s family lawyers called the charge “a substantial step toward closure.”
“Mr. Kassick is now dead as a result of a traffic stop, a routine traffic stop,” family attorney Christopher Slusser told the Associated Press. “He should not be dead.”
According to investigators, Kassick wasn’t physically aggressive toward Mearkle and he didn’t display a weapon. No weapons were found on the scene, they said.
Mearkle tried to pull Kassick over when she saw he had expired emission stickers, and he drove as if trying to get away from her, the complaint reads. Kassick then pulled into his sister’s driveway and tried to run away from Mearkle.
She followed and fired her Taser at him, and he fell to the snow-covered ground with the probes in his back, according to investigators. As he was lying face down with his stomach on the ground, Mearkle told him to not move and show his hands, while his left hand was, at times, briefly out of her view.
Still holding the Taser, Mearkle drew her gun with her other hand. As Kassick’s left hand was out of view, Mearkle discharged the Taser once again, and then fired her gun into the center of his back, the complaint reads.
Mearkle again told Kassick to show his hands, and then she shot him in the back a second time, according to the complaint.
Mearkle told investigators during an interview that Kassick was not physically aggressive toward her, the complaint reads. She said Kassick failed to comply with her commands to show his hands and he repeatedly reached for a jacket pocket for what she thought could be a gun.
Marsico said it appears that Kassick had been trying to remove the Taser probes from his back, AP reported. Kassick had a blood alcohol content of 0.021 and unspecified drugs in his system, the district attorney said at the news conference.
“We realize police officers place their lives on the lines every day, but an officer can only use deadly force when it is necessary,” Marsico said in a statement.