Greensburg, PA – A juror in the trial of a man acquitted of killing a police officer responding to a domestic abuse 911 call said they’d found the defendant not guilty on Feb. 16 because of his testimony at trial.
The juror who spoke with WPXI said the jury acquitted Ray Shetler Jr. in the 2015 killing of St. Clair Township Police Officer Lloyd Reed based on what they believed to be his frame of mind, the way he was holding his gun, and the fact there was 25 feet between him and the officer.
It's not clear how a distance of 25 feet is relevant.
However, the testimony of officers who were on the scene tell a different story.
“He said he wished he would have run into more troopers in the woods. He said he ran out of bullets during the rapid-fire exchange,” Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Aaron Allen testified, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
On Nov. 28, 2015, Officer Reed was responding to a domestic violence call after Shetler’s girlfriend called police, claiming he was drunk, abusive and had locked her in a bathroom, the Pittsburg Tribune-Review reported.
Upon arrival, Officer Reed encountered Shetler, armed with a high-powered rifle, in in his driveway.
Witnesses testified that as Officer Reed approached the house, he yelled repeatedly at Shetler to drop his rifle, but Shetler failed to obey police commands, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
Officer Reed and Shetler exchanged gunfire. The officer was fatally shot, and the suspect received a bullet wound in the shoulder. Shetler and his girlfriend claimed that Officer Reed shot first, and the shooting was self-defense.
The jury, which deliberated for 20 hours total, was deadlocked the first day at 9-3, with nine jurors thinking Shetler was not guilty, the juror told WPXI.
The juror said the case came down to a description of how Shetler had the rifle positioned –slung over his shoulder – and the 25-foot distance between him and Officer Reed when the shooting began.
The distance, and the motion that they believed Shetler made, made the jury think that he was surrendering, the juror told WPXI.
That’s why the jury determined the use of deadly force was not necessary or justified by Officer Reed, the juror said.
He said that the jury determined Shetler’s mindset was that it wasn’t a big deal because he had only thrown a hat at his girlfriend, and he was rushing to pack and leave the house.
Would a man who is about to shoot a police officer throw his hat at his girlfriend? The jury thinks not.
The juror said that Shetler’s testimony had a big impact.
He told WPXI that if the jury hadn't heard what Shetler had to say, he likely would have been convicted, and possibly sentenced to death.
The jury did find Shetler guilty of theft and receiving stolen property, and Shetler was held in jail on a $100,000 bond. He still faces up to seven years in prison on those charges.