Cop-Killer’s Acquittal Sends Sobering Message

A Pennsylvania jury last week acquitted a man who admitted to killing a local police officer. This does not sit well at all with Project 21 Co-Chairman Council Nedd, a Pennsylvania law enforcement professional. In particular, this ruling could have long-term consequences that put more cops at risk.

Despite affirming that he shot St. Clair Township Police Officer Lloyd Reed, a jury found New Florence resident Ray Shelter, Jr. not guilty of first- and third-degree murder charges. There’s no dispute that Shelter shot Reed while the officer was responding to a 911 call made by Shelter’s girlfriend. Witnesses testified that Reed ordered Shelter to drop his rifle, and fired when he did not comply. Shelter shot at Reed, hitting and killing him with a shot that impacted outside his body armor.

Shelter said he was confused, frightened and did not know Reed was a police officer. Reed’s service was downplayed during the trial. Shelter’s defense attorney also told jurors that “[h]e’s not being charged with shooting a police officer” and “[j]ustification supersedes any degree of murder.” During deliberations, jurors reportedly asked for clarification from the judge about the rules of arrest and justification of the use of deadly force. The jury acquitted Shelter of murder, terroristic threats and simple assault, but did find him guilty of theft and receiving stolen property.

Council, a constable serving throughout Pennsylvania, said this decision is stunning to the law enforcement community. Having been in a similar situation, he knows the regular threats that officers face, and the anguish that a decision like this has on those who put their lives on the line every day. Council said:

I did not personally know Officer Lloyd Reed, but I know a lot of his friends. The acquittal of his killer on murder charges cuts every law enforcement officer in this state to the quick.

I was recently involved in an incident where a gun was pulled on me by a gentleman as I attempted to arrest his son. Fortunately, no shots were fired, and I got the man to drop his gun. These are real, daily threats to the very existence of the men and women with which I serve.

I am not going to say the jury got it wrong. As I see it, the prosecution did Officer Reed a disservice and put on a case that led the jury to its decision. But the fact remains the defendant admitted on the stand that he shot Officer Reed while he was responding to a domestic disturbance involving the accused.

What message does it send that you can pull guns on and shoot police officers without consequences?

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 60,000 active recent contributors.