District Attorney John T. Adams has determined that the actions of a Reading Police Officer on the evening of February 24, 2017, at 1219 Spruce Street were a reasonable act of self-defense and defense of others. The officer involved was justified in employing deadly force against Michael T. Stoudt to ensure the safety of himself, other officers and residents in the community. As a consequence, the officer will not be charged with any criminal offense in connection with the incident that evening.
Pennsylvania law allows all persons, including police officers, to use deadly force in an act of self-defense and defense of others if the person reasonably believed that he faced an unlawful interference that created a risk of death or great bodily harm. If, as here, the person's actions are privileged under the law of self-defense they cannot be convicted of any crime.
On Friday, February 24, 2017, at approximately 9:00 p.m., Berks County District Attorney Detectives responded to the City of Reading to investigate an officer involved fatal shooting. The response by the County Detectives was pursuant to District Attorney John T. Adams protocol to have an independent investigative agency investigate police officer shootings. Also responding to the scene were Berks County Chief Detective Michael J. Gombar and First Assistant District Attorney Dennis J. Skayhan.
At approximately 7:51 p.m., Reading Police Officers responded to a 911 call of a white male pointing a rifle (later identified as a sawed-off shotgun) at individuals in the backyard of a residence in the 100 block of South 12th Street. Upon arrival, a witness from the residence told police officers that a white male approximately 60 years of age pointed a rifle over the backyard fence at a group of people having a barbeque. Included in the group of people were six children ranging in age from two to twelve. According to witnesses, the white male was upset over someone from the barbeque smoking in the alley. The group of people retreated into their residence for safety.
Officers were told that the white male lived at 1219 Spruce Street which was adjacent to the property on South 12th Street. Officers responded to the Spruce Street residence in an attempt to make contact with the white male (later identified as Michael T. Stoudt). Upon arrival, Stoudt exited the front door of his home onto his front porch. From the front sidewalk, the officers had their weapons drawn and were yelling several commands to Stoudt. According to officers, Stoudt failed to comply with these commands and instead, started to raise his arms and pointed a sawed-off shotgun in the direction of the officers. One officer fired several shots, striking Stoudt who collapsed on the front porch of his residence. Stoudt was found deceased when the officers approached him.
Berks County Detectives obtained a search warrant for the residence and curtilage. Several items were seized, which included 4 spent .223 rifle cartridges and 1 sawed-off shotgun. The spent cartridges were later determined to be the cartridges that were ejected from the officer's rifle.
At approximately 9:05 p.m., Deputy Coroner Malcolm Eddinger pronounced Michael T. Stoudt deceased. On Sunday, February 26, 2017, an autopsy was conducted by Dr. Supriya Kuruvilla, Chief of Autopsy and Forensic Services at the Reading Hospital. Preliminary results of the autopsy revealed that Stoudt's blood alcohol content was .306.
On Tuesday, March 7, 2017, we were advised of Dr. Kuruvilla's findings. The cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds (3). The manner of death is Homicide.
District Attorney John T. Adams concludes that the officer was reasonable in his belief that he and fellow officers were in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm due to Stoudt's actions of refusing to comply with all police commands and pointing the sawed-off shotgun in their direction. It is also reasonable to believe that Stoudt had the intent and means to inflict death or great bodily harm to the officers and that the officer's use of deadly force under these circumstances was reasonable and therefore privileged under Pennsylvania law.
While it is unfortunate that a life was lost, we commend the actions of the officer involved for protecting himself and his fellow officers.