After autopsy, what we know and don’t know about police shooting

Earl Pinckney

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – New information was released Thursday concerning the death of Earl Pinckney, the 20-year-old Harrisburg man shot and killed by police responding to a domestic disturbance over the weekend.

Police and family members of the victim maintain different stories about what happened. Police say Pinckney was holding a knife to his mother’s throat; his mom says that’s not the case.

Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick held a news conference Thursday morning to announce some of his autopsy findings, careful not to release anything he thought would lead people to draw their own conclusions before investigators can reconstruct the scene.

That leaves a number of unanswered questions.

“You cannot say, well, I believe or I think,” Hetrick said. “You have to know.”

That’s why he said details released publicly are still scarce. Four days after the police officer’s single shot that killed the new father, the autopsy is complete; the conclusions are not.

Earl Pinckney
Earl Pinckney

The officer’s shot hit Pinckney somewhere in the chest from the front, Hetrick said. It was not extremely close range, but past that, Hetrick could not say how far away the officer was when he fired.

Hetrick examined the wound itself, tracking its path and recovering the bullet to test ballistics. The autopsy found no other serious injuries, but even the smallest scratches and bruises are documented as possible evidence, he said.

Toxicology results are still pending and won’t be finished for another two or three weeks. Those records will determine if Pinckney was using — or not using — any medications or other drugs.

“When we’re talking about emotion, state of mind, all those sort of things, it’s good to know what’s in somebody’s bloodstream,” Hetrick said.

Once those results are in, Hetrick said it shouldn’t take long to reconstruct what happened.

The coroner did not describe the angle of the shot, which could help determine where Pinckney and the officer were standing in relation to one another.

Hetrick said he knows the angle of the bullet but doesn’t want people to draw conclusions based on an incomplete set of data.

“We have a young man at the age of 20 that is dead,” he said, “and the question in reconstruction is why.”

They’ve done the legwork, he said. Now they – and the public – have to wait.

“We’ve got everything we’re going to need to reconstruct, so now, let us get all the data back in and we’ll do that,” he said.

Praising police Chief Thomas Carter, Hetrick called him a good investigator who “wants the truth just like everyone else does.”

The coroner’s office released Pinckney’s body to family members Thursday.

Meanwhile, supporters of Kim Thomas, Pinckney’s mother, started a GoFundMe page to raise money for funeral costs and legal expenses.

The group This Stops Today Harrisburg is planning a march in support of Pinckney for Saturday, Aug. 20.

The district attorney’s office did not have any meaningful updates on the case Thursday. ABC27 submitted a right-to-know request for transcripts and other information related to the 911 calls and will report on that information when it’s available.

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