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Mother of accused McKeesport cop killer said he was having a PTSD episode, court documents show

Police lights. (Dreamstime/TNS)

The man accused of killing a McKeesport police officer and wounding another on Monday remained hospitalized Tuesday, officials said, with no date set for his initial court appearance.

Johnathan Morris, 31, is charged with homicide in connection with the death of Officer Sean Sluganski. He also faces a slew of other charges in the alleged shooting, which also injured Officer Chuck Thomas.

Funeral arrangements had not been announced as of early Tuesday afternoon. Gov. Josh Shapiro called for all state and U.S. flags to fly at half-staff until Officer Sluganski’s burial.

Acting Attorney General Michelle Henry released a statement calling it “a tragic day.”

“While the investigation into this incident is still in the very early stages and ongoing,” she said, “early reporting underscores the challenges and volatility we ask police to confront.”

The deadly series of events began with a mental health call.

Mr. Morris’ mother, Candace Tyler, called McKeesport police just after 12:10 p.m. to report he was acting aggressively toward her, according to arrest records. She told dispatchers that he was a military veteran and he was having a post-traumatic stress disorder episode.

The dispatcher told officers that Ms. Tyler reported there were weapons in the house but said none were involved in the altercation she was having with her son.

“There are guns but they are secure, per the caller on this,” the dispatcher relayed to Officers Sluganski and Thomas. Officer Sluganski arrived at the Wilson Street home first, about 12:14 p.m., according to investigators. Officer Thomas pulled up to the home two minutes later.

By then, Mr. Morris had walked away.

Officer Sluganski spotted Mr. Morris again around 12:21 p.m. near the intersection of Sumac and Craig streets, according to the affidavit.

One of the officers — it’s unclear from police radio recordings which one — asked the other if Ms. Tyler had said whether her son had a gun on him.

“He’s got his hands in his pockets,” the officer said.

“No, she said they’re all in the house,” came the reply.

Four minutes later, Officer Sluganski noted Mr. Morris’ hands again.

“Watch that right hand, that pocket’s real heavy,” he said.

Within a minute or two, both officers had been shot, with Officer Thomas pleading for help over his radio.

“Officer down, officer down, get me some help.”

In addition to homicide, Mr. Morris is charged with two counts each of aggravated assault, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a gun and attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer.


(c) 2023 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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