HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A Hummelstown police officer who shot an unarmed man after he fled a traffic stop has been found not guilty.
A Dauphin County jury of nine men and three women acquitted Lisa Mearkle of all charges. The verdict was announced Thursday afternoon.
Mearkle says she shot 59-year-old David Kassick twice in the back because he refused repeated orders to show his hands, even as she used a stun gun on him. She says she feared for her safety because she thought Kassick had a gun.
She spoke to reporters before leaving the courthouse. She said she’s relieved by the jury’s decision.
Mearkle said the shooting and her trial have taken a toll “that nobody understands.” She added that she plans to return to the Hummelstown Police Department. The borough suspended her after charges were filed.
She also apologized to Kassick’s family.
“I wish it never happened. I never wanted to shoot anybody,” she said before breaking down in tears.
Prosecutors argued the shooting wasn’t justified because Kassick wasn’t armed or aggressive. At trial, they showed the jury a two-minute video from Mearkle’s stun gun.
The video was posted on the district attorney’s website after the verdict. It shows Kassick reached for his coat several times as Mearkle screamed for him to keep his hands where she could see them. Mearkle then fired two shots as Kassick lay face down in the snow.
Mearkle’s attorney, Brian Perry, said she held the stun gun’s camera to justify her actions, but prosecutors used it against her.
Kassick fled to his sister’s home in South Hanover Township after the officer tried to stop him for expired inspection and emissions stickers. He ran into the backyard where Mearkle used the stun gun and he fell to the ground.
The Pennsylvania State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police said the verdict confirmed that Mearkle is a good police officer who acted in accordance with her duties and the law.
In statement released after the verdict, State Lodge President Les Neri said Mearkle should be restored to active duty as soon as possible.
Neri said the jury delivered a fair and just verdict, and the organization is disappointed the district attorney’s office did not come to the same conclusion eight months ago.
“The demonizing of police officers who are forced to make split-second decisions unfairly tarnishes the work done by good police officers,” he wrote. “It ignores the unreasonable actions or crimes committed by those who created these situations in the first place.”
ABC 27’s Kendra Nichols spoke with Kassick’s family after the verdict. Look for updates online and on air.