District Attorney Deems Titusville Officer Justified in Firing Weapon

| March 7, 2019

TITUSVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – Crawford County District Attorney Francis J. Schultz has released information on his conclusion stating the Titusville police officer who fired his weapon at a suspect in January was justified in his action.

According to a release issued by Schultz’s office, around 12:40 a.m. on January 28, 2019, two City of Titusville Police Officers were operating a marked patrol unit in downtown Titusville.

The officers attempted a traffic stop on a red/maroon Ford Escape SUV bearing a Pennsylvania registration plate within the City of Titusville when it was determined that the registration plate on the Ford Escape did not belong on that vehicle.

The suspect, later identified as William Birchard, fled from the officers, and a pursuit was initiated, which led through the City of Titusville continuing north out of the city on State Highway 8.

According to the release, at times during the pursuit, Birchard was driving his vehicle between 80 to 100 miles per hour. The patrol unit was eventually able to pass Birchard’s vehicle and pull into Birchard’s lane of travel, attempting to stop the vehicle, and one officer exited the patrol unit in an attempt to make contact with Birchard. Birchard then executed a U-turn in which he backed up aggressively and at a high rate of speed towards the officer and the patrol unit.

The officer reported that he did not believe that the operator of the vehicle was going to stop and that he would be struck by the vehicle. The officer then fired his handgun two times at Birchard’s vehicle. Birchard then fled south on State Highway 8.

Birchard was not hit by either shot and was not injured in any manner.

At approximately 1:15 a.m., Birchard abandoned the Ford Escape in the driveway of a residence on Old Route 8, as the vehicle had run out of gas.

Members of the Pennsylvania State Police inspected the vehicle and found a bullet hole in the rear hatch. One bullet was found lodged inside of the vehicle in an interior cargo cover that was rolled up and not in use. The second bullet was never recovered.

The incident was investigated by members of the Pennsylvania State Police Corry Barracks as per the Crawford County Office of District Attorney Officer-Involved Shooting Policy.

The release notes that the Office of District Attorney reviewed the Pennsylvania State Police investigative report, which includes photographs and recorded witness statements. The Office of District Attorney also reviewed the incident report that was prepared by the City of Titusville Police Officers.

According to the release, the conclusion drawn from the information was that after being involved in a high-speed chase with Birchard that covered a distance of approximately five miles, the officer possessed a “reasonable belief that he was in danger of death or serious bodily injury” when Birchard backed his vehicle in an aggressive manner towards the officer and the patrol unit.

“There is no evidence that the officer committed any crimes when he discharged his firearm at the suspect,” the release states.

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