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Washington County Coroner Makes Ruling In Officer-Involved Shooting

WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) -- The Washington County Coroner issued a ruling today into the 2010 death of a man who was involved in an exchange of gunfire with police in Washington County.

Kelly Smith, 42, died in July 2010 after a high-speed chase on Route 40 and an officer-involved shooting.

The chase was shot from a police officer's dashboard camera.

Investigators say police officers from Washington, North Franklin and South Strabane were chasing Smith after he refused to stop in an area known for drug activity.

"Mr. Smith was behaving suspiciously, tried to conceal his identity and his passenger's identity," said Washington County District Attorney Steve Toprani. "When the responding police officer tried to initiate a traffic stop, he quickly departed from the scene and led them on a chase."

The chase ended when Smith crashed his car over an embankment on Route 40 in South Strabane Township.

According to testimony, Smith was ordered to get out of the car, but instead, he is accused of pulling a gun from the glove box.

"In full view of the officers, he loaded the gun. He cried out shoot me," said Tim Warco, the Washington County Coroner.

It's believed that one shot was fired from Smith's gun. Eventually, police shot Smith three times in the chest.

At today's hearing, Warco ruled Smith's death as a "suicide by a police officer."

"When you have armed officers involved, obviously, an individual has to know that if you go in in an aggressive manner with a weapon endangering their lives, they are going to respond," said Warco.

Smith's relatives were disappointed with the ruling; they believe police had other options.

"He pulled the gun okay, and the barrel was facing him, and they stood there and watched him load the gun," said Dave Ledger, Smith's uncle. "Now, give me a break."

Washington County Coroner's Office
Inquest Begins In Chase, Officer-Involved Shooting In Washington Co.
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