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Coroner: Man Killed by Police Died From 'Suicide by Cop'

Washington County Coroner Tim Warco concluded the inquest into the death of Kelly Duane Smith, who was shot and killed by police after a pursuit in July 2010.

Editor's Note: This story was modified at 5:30 p.m. to correct background information about the shooting incident. I apologize for the error.

The death of a North Strabane man who was shot and killed by police in 2010 after a pursuit  was deemed “suicide by cop,” Washington County Coroner Tim Warco announced Friday.

The announcement came at the conclusion of an inquest into the death of Kelly Duane Smith, who was shot in the chest and hand by officers after they said they saw him retrieve a handgun from the glove compartment of his car and began to load it when the chase had come to an end.

Warco said after the inquest that “suicide by cop” is when a suspect “forces the hand” of officers.

“(Smith) cried out, ‘Shoot me,’” Warco added.

After crashing his car near the Kopper Kettle in South Strabane, Kelly reportedly pointed a gun at officers, who shot and killed him, according to WPXI-TV.

District Attorney Steve Toprani thanked the coroner and told reporters that the investigation into Smith’s death was investigated thoroughly, and had been treated like a homicide.

But he acknowledged that it was a tough decision—both for Smith’s family and the officers involved.

“These decisions are difficult to make,” he said. “The police are sympathetic of this loss as we are.”

And he said that no action would be taken against the police officers involved in the shooting, describing their actions as “justifiable use of force.”

“We will not be going any further,” Toprani said.

Smith’s family was visibly upset by the conclusion, with one member telling reporters that police could have and should have used force.

His aunt, Pat Ledger, said the process has been long and drawn out—and that what police told her right after her nephew’s death was different than the final outcome.

Asked to elaborate, she declined.

“We don’t want to be on the news,” she said. “We just want the truth.”

JA December 30, 2011 at 06:27 PM
Yep... officers shoot people sitting in cars doing nothing all the time! Come on! He had to have done something wrong. I find it very hard to believe that any cop would just shoot someone just because. I don't think any cop wants to see anyone die. And I'm ashamed to see the Ledger family fighting this battle this much. They have one of their own on a police force. How would they react if he was the police officer having a gun pointed at him??
Moe Szyslak December 30, 2011 at 09:02 PM
no matter if it was "suicide by cop" or "justifiable homicide", the guy had a weapon that the police deemed a threat. He refused to relinquish it, and he suffered the ultimate consequence. Some people look for conspiracies in all the wrong places. Maybe "The Family" should have looked out for Kelly to prevent his actions that ultimately led to his death. Everyone cares after you are dead.
Amanda Gillooly December 30, 2011 at 10:32 PM
MH - I corrected the error. My apologies for the mistake. If I may be of further assistance, please feel free to email me (amanda.gillooly@patch.com) or call me (724-510-5659) anytime.
MH December 30, 2011 at 11:31 PM
You don't even know this family. This family was very close to Kelly. The facts are what the system wants you to know not what was told to 6 family members the day after the shooting. How dare you make a comment that everyone cares after someone dies. That's not the case all the family wanted was the truth. Not different stories.
Kim December 31, 2011 at 03:30 AM
@Vaughn, I agree with most of what you are saying. The guy had a weapon and was running from the police. Does it really matter what it is called homicide or suicide? Not sure why he was running because innocent people generally do not try and run from the police and then pull a weapon out of their glove box. So I'm not sure what the family wants. The fact that he was running from the police and had a weapon alone justifies any officer defending himself, his fellow officers, and anyone else that may have been there. If there is more to the story then they should share it but if not then it is what it is and he is gone because of a stupid decision HE made.

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