GREENSBURG (KDKA) – Opening statements began Thursday morning in the trial of a man accused of killing a Saint Clair Township police officer.
Police say Ray Shetler Jr. shot and killed Officer Lloyd Reed in November of 2015. Officer Reed was responding to a domestic dispute at the home of Shetler’s girlfriend.
Kristen Luther is heard saying in her call to 911 the night incident happened that she had been assaulted.
During his opening statement, District Attorney John Peck told jurors, “This is about the reality of being a police officer. A reality that’s all too tragic in this particular case.”
Westmoco DA John Peck opening statement to Jurors .
“This is about The reality of being a police officer. A reality that’s all too tragic in this particular case.”
— Ross Guidotti (@RossGuidotti) February 8, 2018
“[Reed] was simply trying to fulfill his duty and responsibility to the community he was sworn to protect and serve,” Peck said. “This is a study in extremes. Officer Reed, 54, an extremely caring man who liked to serve people. Ray Shetler Jr., a man who woke up irritated, full of venom and content with belligerence.”
Defense attorney Marc Daffner said his client was dropping the rifle when Officer Reed opened fire on him.
“This is not a case of murder actually, but that doesn’t mean it’s not tragic. This is not a case of murder, but self-defense. The devil is in the details,” he said.
Daffner said by the end of the trial it will be clear a tragedy took place, but it was not a murder. It was, if anything, an act of self-defense.
Shetler has previously admitted to opening fire on Officer Reed outside of Luther’s home, saying he didn’t realize he was shooting at a police officer.
But, prosecutors say Officer Reed was in uniform and identified himself as such.
Taking the stand for the prosecution was former Seward officer Justin Dickert, who was actually on his last day of duty before starting a new job when he responded to back up Reed.
Dickert described the stand-off between Shetler, who he couldn’t see initially, and Reed, who he saw with his pistol drawn.
“[Reed] was yelling, ‘Drop the gun’ three or four times,” Dickert said. “It was fast. I heard Reed fire four or five times, then I heard Ray’s gun two or three times. As it was happening, [Reed] was trying to fire and retreat. I saw him fall beside a tree.”
During the course of the trial, jurors will visit the home where Officer Reed was killed along with the power plant where police found Shetler.
Peck argued although jurors will see photographs of the murder scene and video surveillance from the power plant, the visits are necessary to demonstrate the lengths Shetler allegedly went through to hide and conceal the crime.
If Shetler is convicted, Peck plans to pursue the death penalty.