Hummelstown police officer’s murder trial begins

Hummelstown police Officer Lisa Mearkle arrives at the Dauphin County Courthouse for the beginning of her murder trial on Tuesday, November 3, 2015.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A Dauphin County jury has watched a video that shows Hummelstown police Officer Lisa Mearkle using a stun gun and then fatally shooting an unarmed man.

Mearkle went on trial Tuesday for the killing for 59-year-old David Kassick in South Hanover Township.

The video shows Kassick fall to the snow-covered ground, initially laying on his side. Mearkle can be heard ordering him to get on the ground and to show his hands, while his brother shouts for Kassick to “do what she says.”

Kassick then rolls onto his stomach. Mearkle again orders him to show his hands before firing two shots into his back. The video shows both of Kassick’s hands on the ground in front of his face.

One juror cried as the video was played twice. Another grabbed her face in shock.

“I felt what I always felt when I see that video. It’s powerful and, to me, no matter how many times I see, it it is still pretty shocking,” chief deputy district attorney Johnny Baer said.

Prosecutors have called the two-minute video from the stun gun’s camera their “most critical piece of evidence.” They’re asking the jury to determine whether the shooting was necessary and reasonable.

“Was this something that had to be done? Was it immediately necessary in those few seconds to take a life to save a life, and in the totality were her actions reasonable under those circumstances?” Baer said. “Those to me are the two critical issues that they will have to decide.”

Mearkle’s lawyer asked the jurors to see the video through the officer’s eyes.

David Kassick (Family photo)
David Kassick (Family photo)

Authorities say Mearkle used the stun gun four times before firing. Her attorney says the 37-year-old officer feared for her life because Kassick kept reaching under his waist as if he had a gun.

Mearkle, a 15-year veteran of the police department, tried to stop Kassick for expired inspection and emissions stickers, but he drove to his sister’s home and ran into the backyard.

The jury of nine men and three women also heard testimony from a Lebanon Valley College intern who was in Mearkle’s car. He said he did not see the shooting, but heard Mearkle repeatedly order Kassick to show his hands.

Jurors also heard from an expert witness who testified the stun gun did not work properly, which is why Kassick was still moving after it was deployed.

Mearkle is charged with third-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 20-40 years in prison. She is suspended from the police department.

She is expected to testify in her defense Wednesday.

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