VANDERGRIFT (KDKA) – A Vandergrift police officer opened fire on a vehicle after being struck in the parking lot of a business Wednesday morning.
The incident happened around 9 a.m. at the Kochka’s & Sons Towing at the intersection of Routes 56 and 50 in Vandergrift.
One witness called the incident an “unfortunate accident” and “terrible timing.”
“It appears, preliminarily, from everything we were able to gather, that there is mostly likely a vehicle malfunction taking place and he wasn’t intentionally trying to hit anyone,” Trooper Stephen Limani, of Pennsylvania State Police, said.
Witnesses say Officer Joe Gray had just exited the business with borough employee Glen Rupert. That’s when Officer Gray and Rupert walked into the path of a car driven by local resident Chuck Pencak.
Pencak has a special gas pedal due to having a prosthetic leg. He said the gas pedal stuck and rather than put the vehicle into neutral, he tried to pull into the parking lot.
Witnesses say Pencak hit Officer Gray and Rupert, throwing them into the air. The car then turned around and headed back toward the officer, who fired multiple shots.
“That’s when we all noticed that Officer Gray was laying on the ground, he was face down at the time. He then rolled over and at that point is when I feel the shock started setting in, he started shaking, but him also being a true officer he was still trying to call for help on his radio,” witness Stacy Johnson said.
Officer Gray and Rupert were taken to Pittsburgh area hospitals. Their injuries are not considered life threatening.
Pencak, who lives nearby, was not hurt. Police questioned and then released him. He stayed at the scene to help render aid to Officer Gray.
The investigation into the accident is ongoing and state police have not ruled out charges against the driver.