A Pennsylvania jury on Thursday acquitted police officer Lisa Mearkle of murder charges in the Feb. 2 shooting of David Kassick, an unarmed white man — one of just five fatal police shootings of the 834 to date this year that have resulted in charges.
“I never wanted to shoot anybody,” the acquitted Hummelstown police officer told local reporters as she exited the courthouse, later adding that she plans to resume her job with the department.
The shooting happened after Mearkle attempted a traffic stop because the vehicle being driven by Kassick had an expired inspection sticker. He drove off, later pulling into his sister’s driveway and then got out of the car and attempted to run away. Police say that’s when Mearkle fired her stun gun at him, and he fell face first into the snow. The officer then deployed her stun gun once more before firing two bullets into Kassick’s back.
Mearkle, 36, told investigators and the jury that Kassick’s left hand had been out of view and that he did not comply with her commands to show both hands and stop moving.
During the trial Mearkle expressed regret about the shooting, but she said that the man presented a threat to her — even after he had been shocked with a stun gun.
“I wish he was here right now. I wish he didn’t do this,” Mearkle said, sobbing, in court. “I didn’t want to have to shoot him, but he made me.”
A one-and-a-half minute video recorded on Mearkle’s Taser gun captured the incident, and was shown in court. According to the Associated Press, which had a reporter in the courtroom on the day the video was played, the video shows “Kassick’s hands repeatedly disappearing underneath his body as Mearkle screams at him to keep them where she can see them.”
“Show your hands!” the officer is heard yelling.
Officers are rarely charged in connection to on-duty shootings.
A Washington Post analysis earlier this year found that just 54 officers had faced charges for an on-duty shooting between 2005 and 2015. One of those trials, that of Charles Kleinert, the Austin, Tex., detective who killed Larry Jackson Jr. in 2013, was set to begin on Monday, but the manslaughter charge was dismissed last week.
Kassick’s death came as the nation was in the early stages of what has been a more-than-year-long discussion of race and policing, sparked in part by the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last August. Mearkle was the first officer charged in connection to an on-duty shooting this year. To date, five police officers have been charged this year for shooting someone while on-duty.
Four of the five police shootings this year that have resulted in charges have been captured on video — the deaths of Kassick, Walter Scott, Sam Dubose and Eric Harris.