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McKeesport and Baldwin communities continue to heal one year after deadly shooting of Officer Sean Sluganski

Honoring fallen McKeesport Police officer Sean Sluganski
Honoring fallen McKeesport Police officer Sean Sluganski 01:50

MCKEESPORT, Pa. (KDKA) -- It's been one year since McKeesport Police officer Sean Sluganski was shot and killed in the line of duty and the communities where he served and grew up continue to heal. 

The community he served honored his sacrifice at a memorial unveiling in Renziehausen Park. The community gathered to honor a hero who paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep the people he loved safe. 

The dek hockey rink at McKeesport's Renzie Park has been renamed Officer Sean "Slug" Sluganski Memorial Dek Hockey Rink. Officer Sluganski was shot and killed in the line of duty on February 6, 2023 while responding to a domestic call.  KDKA Photojournalist Brian Smithmyer

That event will be followed by a candlelight vigil in Baldwin.  Anyone wishing to attend the vigil asked to meet in the Borough Building Auditorium to collect their candles. The vigil will take place in front of the building. 

The McKeesport Area School District is asking students to wear blue today in honor of Officer Sluganski. School buildings in the district will be taking turns this week hosting refreshments for local police officers.

Chuck Thomas remembers his partner

McKeesport Officer Chuck Thomas said he's alive because of Sluganski

"He saved my life. That's the bottom line, he saved my life," Thomas said. 

"Somebody was trying to hurt me and he got in the way for me," he added. 

Thomas had just returned from vacation and was working overtime when he and his partner Officer Sean Sluganski responded to a domestic call that turned into a deadly barrage of gunfire that killed Sluganski and injured Thomas. It's a horror he says he will never forget. 

"I'll never get over it or be able to move on but I'm working towards moving forward," Thomas said. 

While Thomas says he has healed physically, the emotional and mental damage left behind will never go away. The loss of his friend, who left behind a bright future, including a fiancée and a 1-year old daughter, is difficult to grasp.

"I miss the grin on his face, his smile, the late-night Instagram reels that he would send me. Just the conversations we had at work," Thomas said. 

Thomas says he doesn't know what the future holds for him as there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty. But one thing he knows for sure is he will always keep the memory of his brother in blue alive.

"His name shouldn't be going on the memorial wall on the North Shore or in the national wall in D.C. in May and we shouldn't be having this conversation," Thomas said. 

A dark day in McKeesport

Last February, a domestic incident turned into tragedy as Sluganski was shot and killed and his partner, Chuck Thomas, was wounded.

The officers were responding to the call along Wilson Street when they encountered a man on Grandview Avenue.  


That man, later identified as Johnathan Morris, is accused of pulling out a handgun and opening fire, killing Sluganski. 

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Morris in the charges related to Sluganski's killing. The trial is expected to get underway in September. 

Sluganski had served on the force in McKeesport for two years after joining the department in 2020 and was promoted to full-time in 2021.  

Laying a fallen hero to rest

During a funeral mass following the deadly shooting, Sluganski was remembered with laughs, smiles, fond memories and tears -- but, most of all, he was remembered as a hero.    

Bagpipers stood outside the church as Officer Sluganski's casket was brought out of the hearse. Then, mourners began filing in ahead of the Mass.

A flag-draped casket carrying the body of fallen McKeesport Police officer Sean Sluganski is carried into St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Baldwin, Pa. Mike Darnay/Mon Valley Independent

"He brought the brightest light to every dark corner of my life and gave me everything I could have ever wanted, and our family, and our daughter," said Chelsea Cancilla, Sluganski's fiancee. "I feel like the luckiest person to be loved by him. Not a day will pass when she isn't reminded of who he was. That he left this world doing exactly what he loved and believed in it so much. That he left a hero, not only to us, but everyone he met."  

"He always had my back," Officer Thomas said. "We ran through a lot of doors together. I couldn't have had a better partner. He'll forever be my hero."

Officer Chuck Thomas' Eulogy at the funeral of Sean Sluganski 01:58

Hundreds of law enforcement officers from all across the region descended upon St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Baldwin to say farewell to the fallen officer. 

A procession from the funeral mass to the cemetery traveled through McKeesport with more than 100 cars from friends, family, and officers around the region as Sluganski's body made one final trip around the city he served.

A procession with the body of fallen McKeesport Police officer Sean Sluganski travels through the community he served after a funeral mass.  KDKA

He was laid to rest at the Jefferson Memorial Cemetery in Pleasant Hills. 

Remembering Officer Sluganski

In the wake of Sluganski's tragic death, numerous things have been done to honor the fallen hero's life.

At Sluganski's alma mater, Baldwin-Whitehall School District administration and the Baldwin-Whitehall Educational Foundation have partnered with four local law enforcement agencies to present the Officer Sean Sluganski Memorial Scholarship

It will be awarded annually to a graduating senior of Baldwin High School who shares Officer Sluganski's passion for serving their communities and is pursuing a career in law enforcement and crime prevention.

A dek hockey rink in Baldwin has been renamed in honor Sluganski. 

Slug's Deck sean sluganski
A dek hockey rink in Baldwin was renamed in honor of fallen McKeesport police officer Sean Sluganski on Aug. 9, 2023. KDKA

Elm Leaf Park's dek hockey rink was renamed Slug's Deck during a dedication ceremony in August. 

"Sean would absolutely adore this," his mother, Terri Sluganski, said in August. "Naturally, I wish with all my heart he was standing here next to me. So six months seems like yesterday still."

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