PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A grand jury report reportedly says the police union president deliberately tried to block investigators who were looking into two officer-involved shootings from 2017.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the report says Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 President Robert Swartzwelder disregarded policies and ethical standards of the Police Bureau after two officer-involved shootings.
The first happened in Larimer on Jan. 22, 2017 when an officer shot and killed a homeowner while responding to a burglary report.
Christopher Thompkins, 57, and his ex-wife Brenda Richmond were at their home on Finley Street when Richmond says they woke up to find a man standing over their bed. Richmond called police to report a burglary in process.
According to Richmond, Thompkins grabbed a gun and went after the intruder. Police said when they arrived at the scene and were trying to gain entry into the home, they saw a man coming down the stairs and firing shots in the officers’ direction. The officers then fatally shot Thompkins.
Richmond filed a lawsuit earlier this year, alleging the officers fired “indiscriminately” and without warning.
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The second was a non-fatal officer-involved shooting in East Liberty in April 2017.
The Post-Gazette reports the grand jury found the union stopped investigators from gathering evidence after both shootings and they say the lack of cooperation was orchestrated by Swartzwelder. The report also accuses Swartzwelder of preventing investigators from interviewing an officer at the scene of the East Liberty shooting.
According to the Post-Gazette, the grand jury did not bring or recommend criminal charges against Swartzwelder or anyone else.
The Post-Gazette also says Swartzwelder and the FOP responded to the report, claiming some information in the report is not accurate and that Swartzwelder’s job is to represent the rank and file police officers, “not to represent the city” or “help the district attorney prosecute police.”