Judge Sentences Man To Probation So The Cop He Shot Can Sue Him

William Sturtevant shot Whitehall Police Officer Jason Mertz in the leg during a burglary call in 2017.

Whitehall, PA – A Whitehall police officer who was shot in the line of duty in 2017 asked the court to sentence his attacker to probation so he could sue the suspect for potentially ending his law enforcement career.

Whitehall Police Officer Jason Mertz and his partner responded to the residence of 48-year-old William Sturtevant at approximately 2 a.m. on Sep. 9, 2017, after Sturtevant called 911 to report that he believed someone was trying to break into his home, The Morning Call reported.

According to Sturtevant, someone had also broken into the residence the day before to steal copper pipe.

The home was vacant and up for sale, so the homeowner decided to hide inside a closet in the residence to wait for the burglars to return.

When he heard a noise downstairs, he called 911.

Officers were dispatched to a burglary in progress and were told that the homeowner was hiding in the closet.

Then, instead of remaining on the line with the 911 dispatcher, Sturtevant grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun, a .380-caliber handgun, duct tape, and a knife and went searching for the alleged burglar on his own, The Morning Call reported.

Officers rushed to the scene, and entered the house to save the homeowner. The officers were in the basement when Sturtevant busted open the door and discharged his shotgun.

Officer Mertz was struck in the leg, and immediately collapsed to the ground.

“All I thought was, ‘I can’t die. I have a wife and two kids,’” he told the court, according to The Morning Call.

Fellow officers immediately applied a tourniquet to the nine-year department veteran’s leg, and rushed him to a local hospital, The Morning Call reported at the time.

Sturtevant’s attorney argued that the homeowner heard voices before he fired his weapon, and that he didn’t think they belonged to the police because he didn’t see or hear any patrol vehicles pull up.

According to the officers, they shut off their patrol cars’ emergency equipment before they arrived at the residence, but they announced themselves loudly as they entered the home, The Morning Call reported.

Officer Mertz still has approximately 160 shotgun pellets embedded in his leg as a result of his gunshot wound, he told the court.

The injury left him in constant pain, and he has been physically unable to perform many tasks – such as climbing stairs – that would be required for him to return to the streets.

Officer Mertz said it has been a devastating realization to know that he may never be able to serve as a law enforcement officer again.

“I love helping people. I just love the job,” he told the court, according to The Morning Call. “To be there for people, to do what’s right to keep people safe.”

The wounded officer said he went to college to land a job in law enforcement, but that the shooting has left him with student loans and no career.

Sturtevant, who had no prior criminal history, was charged with a felony count of aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer, The Morning Call reported.

His attorney later asked Chief Deputy District Attorney Diane Marakovits about the possibility of a 10-year probation sentence in lieu of prison time.

Marakovits said she didn’t like the idea of Sturtevant not spending time behind bars, and that she and Officer Mertz talked about the pros and cons of the potential plea agreement for hours, The Morning Call reported.

Officer Mertz ultimately concluded that being able to file a civil claim against his attacker had the best chance of helping him to become financially whole.

“Believe me, I would want you to throw the book at him,” he told the court. “But I have student loans for a career I no longer have.”

Whitehall Police Chief Michael Marks said he also struggled with the plea deal, but that he would support whatever the wounded officer felt would benefit him and his family the most.

Judge Kelly Banach blasted Sturtevant during his sentencing hearing, and said she was hesitant to accept the plea agreement.

“We don’t live in the wild west anymore,” the judge told Sturtevant. “Once you choose to call police, you stand down."

Banach said she was “outraged” by the homeowner’s actions, and that she didn’t understand why he decided to “arm himself to the teeth” when he knew police were on their way, The Morning Call reported.

"What you did was careless, and quite frankly it feels to me like craziness,” she told Sturtevant, according to The Morning Call. “You have ruined a man’s life.”

After hearing Officer Mertz’s testimony, Banach ultimately sentenced Sturtevant to 10 years of probation.

Sturtevant works as a corporate trainer for a cookware firm, according to The Morning Call.

Comments (62)
No. 1-10
Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

Another case of bad announcement. It should be the homeowner collecting a judgment from the po-po's.

It is clear that the homeowner meant tissue burglars and not police officers. The police should not have been sneaking around playing secret squirrel in this situation.

40 Replies

LEO0301
LEO0301

"It is clear that the homeowner meant tissue burglars and not police officers" LOL I'm sure that makes sense in your strange little world....

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

"meant to shoot" -- sorry about the confusion engendered by my typo

IseeWhereThisIsGoing
IseeWhereThisIsGoing

Apparently you missed this detail: "they shut off their patrol cars’ emergency equipment before they arrived at the residence, but they announced themselves loudly as they entered the home"

Reading comprehension.... maybe you should go back to elementary school?

Ksgal
Ksgal

Funny how trolls jump in to bash cops BEFORE they read the article

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

They say that. I do not believe them. I am sure that the homeowner would not have shot if they actually made a decent announcement. Not making a good initial announcement = bad. Not continuiing to announce as they moved about the house = worse. Lying about it later in court = typical po po.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

got some bodycam of this supposed announcement?

ScaleriBrosLawyer
ScaleriBrosLawyer

Ah yes. True to form hey burgers? 'Facts don't matter' right? [See my profile picture] So why would the judge grant the cop's request and sentence the homeowner to probation if the cop had no grounds to sue? Damn those pesky facts getting in the way of your anti-cop bias. Maybe you should undertake some anti-bias training to get over your irrational hatred of police. I think you'd be happier and safer.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

Lies don't matter. They obscure the facts, which do matter.

ScaleriBrosLawyer
ScaleriBrosLawyer

And what facts do YOU have to back your claim the police didn't announce their presence?

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

The fact that the guy shot the intruders is very powerful evidence that the announcement was not made (or was perhaps delivered in a stage whisper). It is much stronger than the testimony of a bunch of (what lawyers call) "interested witnesses."

Just like when a suspect says, "these aren't my trousers" and we all know that it is a lie.

ScaleriBrosLawyer
ScaleriBrosLawyer

Because the facts I see are 1.)The officers' official reports state they announced their presence 2.)The homeowner admits he heard voices before he opened fire and 3.) The judge obviously had sufficient evidence in order to convict the homeowner.

Also, speaking of the homeowner, he obviously didn't pay attention in his firearms safety class. One of the cardinal rules of gun safety is that you identify your target before you pull the trigger. Blasting away at voices without identifying them first is criminal negligence. Probably a good thing he's no longer allowed near guns with that level of recklessness.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

He identified the men as intruders in his house that hadn't announced that they were police. That is good enough. He didn't need their names or social security numbers if that is what you are suggesting.

SAAM
SAAM

Go back to TV, Basement Bunny. The adults are having a conversation.

ScaleriBrosLawyer
ScaleriBrosLawyer

If he identified them he would've seen they were uniformed police officers. He clearly didn't identify them as he stated he only 'heard voices' (which means they were clearly making noise). Also he should've know police potentially could've been there because he was the one that called them. The man was clearly an idiot ill-equipped to be handling firearms and now he's rightfully going to pay the price for that. Given the level of ineptitude it makes one wonder if he did this with the sole purpose of ambushing those officers.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

He had a split second in a rapidly evolving situation. The law is supposed to make allowances for that (especially when one is in one's home and not trained as an LEO). Hesitation could have been deadly if it was a burglar. Hesitation would have been deadly if he has shined a light on them to adjudge whether they were burglars or not. Certainly if the police officers had seen him first, holding his shottie, then he would be dead now. Better to be tried by 12, etc. I wonder why he plead out and didn't decide to take this to a jury trial.

RE-POSTED TO FIX LAST SENTENCE.

ScaleriBrosLawyer
ScaleriBrosLawyer

He still opened fire on two uniformed police officers who were lawfully in his home after he himself called them there. They announced their presence as per their sworn statements and the homeowner admits he heard them. He should not have left his hiding spot to 'hunt down' the burglars, especially in the dark, knowing full well police would be there anytime and he certainly should not be shooting at unseen targets. The 'rapidly evolving situation' is one that he created himself by leaving his hiding spot to play action hero. None of that is any excuse for trying to kill a cop in the course of his lawful duties and I hope this officer receives substantial financial compensation from the homeowner because of his criminal negligence.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

An announcement that cannot be understood is worse than no announcement at all. This would not have happened if they announced with a megaphone (as they should have). This would not have happened if they continued to announce as they moved through the house (as they should have). I think Officer Secret Squirrel is going to get his butt handed to him in civil court. Contributory negligence and all that.

ScaleriBrosLawyer
ScaleriBrosLawyer

See, this why arguing with somebody that gets their police knowledge from TV is futile. No cop is going to pull up to a burglary in progress and bust out a megaphone. What they will do, and what these officers no doubt did, is loudly announce their presence as they secure the house.

Bottom line: you cannot call the police to your location then shoot them when they show up. Saying 'gosh I didn't know it was them' doesn't cut it in this scenario because the homeowner left the safety of a hiding spot to go looking for a gunfight. He is 100% at fault here and is lucky they're not putting him behind bars where he can't hurt anyone else.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

For purposes of the homeowner's liability, it does not matter what the police said. It matters what the homeowner heard.

The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger

You ever heard the term "eat sh-t and die"???

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

This story actually reminds me of the one time I made a burglary call. The police officer did not announce when he got to my door (90 minutes after the call). He did almost break the door with how hard he was pounding on it. You could see the door bend within the frame. Thankfully the partner had the foresight to leave the flashing lights on the police vehicle running (unlike in this story).

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

lesson for those who call police: get that smart phone recording right away and keep it recording. Otherwise they will screw you the way they are screwing Sturtevant here.

Jim H. - Virginia US
Jim H. - Virginia US

There are some similarities to the case about the judge offering the victim $150,000 in exchange for a reduced sentence for the perp.

Personally, I think it is quite just to let the victim have a say in the sentencing. In this case, the victim preferred compensation over punitive incarceration for the perp.

While it seems mainly to be a tragic accident, the homeowner used deadly force to protect unoccupied property, which is illegal in PA.

Repubic*of*USA1
Repubic*of*USA1

Burgers Allday you are the biggest piece of SHIT, let me guess that you flip burgers for a living in order to pay fines or maybe your spouse support as I know from your comments that your ex can not get money from you for child support. I guess you may have married some girl that has nothing good about herself as she chose a loser like you. Probably an ex-con that hates everything to do with cops cause they threw your mother in the pin for killing your worthless father RIGHT! Your wife or ex wife needs to sue you for all the money she can get from you and leave with those children that you have put into the world from you raping your wife cause I'm sure she found out what a piece of shit you are. She should have left you while you was in prison and change her last name. I'm sure you got enough ass while you was in prison.

Gramercy
Gramercy

YES...SUE THE GUILT and THE STATE! And then see about having your student loans forgiven for the altercation that you suffered through in life.

Wish505
Wish505

LOL Michele and Baracks little boy continue to amaze me with his insight and wisdom.

The express
The express

i have a question for everyone here; Why do you waste your time with this hater?

Patriot63
Patriot63

Sounds like a good idea. I hope the Officer takes him for all he's got and some.

Les_gpt
Les_gpt

Shouldn't he be protected by stand your ground? If there is question of announcements should the owners safety take precedence since he thought it was peat burglars. Police are cleared regularly based on that. Should the officer receive compensation from the department for his on the job injury. Since being shot is a real possibility of police work the officer shouldn't be able to use.