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Lawsuit blames Center Township officer for death of man pushed while helping shooting victim

Estate of Kenneth Vinyard files lawsuit against Center Township and officer
Estate of Kenneth Vinyard files lawsuit against Center Township and officer 02:53

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - A federal lawsuit blames a Center Township police officer for the death of a man who was pushed trying to help a shooting victim in Monaca last year.  

Attorney Joel Sansone filed the lawsuit on Tuesday on behalf of the estate of Kenneth Vinyard against Center Township and officer John Hawk.

"I would like to see him charged with murder because that's what he did," said Debbie Little, Vinyard's sister. "He murdered my brother and he needs to be charged with murder and he needs to pay for what he did. He needs to pay for taking him away from his family and his 12-year-old child."

Sansone says Vinyard was violently pushed down by Hawk, who wasn't on duty at the time. The complaint alleges unconstitutional excessive force, the township's failure to adequately train Hawk and wrongful death. Hawk has not been charged.  

"It was just so senseless, and I again want him charged," said Marcy Beatty, Vinyard's fiancé. "I have said from the beginning. If it was reversed, Ken would have been arrested that night."

Wrongful death lawsuit filed against officer accused of pushing Good Samaritan helping shooting vict 02:50

In a cellphone video obtained by KDKA-TV,  Sansone says its shows Hawk — who was off-duty and in plain clothes — violently pushing Vinyard to the ground after he tried to help a shooting victim in the parking lot of a Walmart. His fiancé started CPR, but the 48-year-old died later at a hospital. 

"This federal lawsuit seeks true relief. First, we want to prove that this bad cop murdered Ken Vinyard. And secondly, we want to prove that Center Township knew this was a bad cop and knew that he had been out there breaking people's constitutional rights in the past and that had they trained him properly, had they supervised him properly, had they disciplined him properly, Ken Vinyard might still be alive," Sansone said.   

"This guy got down in my face, and that's when I found out he was a police officer," Beatty said. "No idea he was a police officer. I'm doing CPR screaming for help and he is in my face."

The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office now has the death investigation and will decide if any criminal charges are filed after Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier recused himself due to a conflict of interest.

"I want to see him in prison," Little said. "And if it had been anybody else that had done that besides a police officer, they would already be charged and in prison. And that is what is so unfair."

KDKA-TV's Jennifer Borrasso reached out to the attorney for Hawk, Chief Barry Kramer and the solicitor but did not hear back. The lawsuit is seeking compensatory economic and noneconomic damages to be proven at trial.

At last check, the Beaver County coroner said he was waiting for toxicology results before the autopsy is complete.

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