Following a tense standoff, nearly 80 Pittsburgh police officers, which is approximately seven percent of the city’s total force, have been placed on administrative leave in accordance with department protocol.
This action was taken after they discharged their weapons during a prolonged confrontation with a heavily armed squatter.
Accoridng to Police Chief Larry Scirotto, the officers fired thousands of shots in a standoff with 63-year-old William Hardison, who resisted every effort to communicate. The police chief also revealed that 47 of his officers, primarily from the SWAT team, are now on leave as per standard protocol. Additionally, 16 officers from the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office and 12 from the Allegheny County Police have been placed on leave. These officers, totaling 75, will undergo evaluations to ensure they are in the right “emotional state of mind” before they can resume their duties.
The Pennsylvania State Police have taken charge of the investigation. The three agencies involved have a combined strength of around 1,102 street officers. This means the city is currently operating without nearly seven percent of its police force.
The standoff took place in Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood. It commenced when officers approached Hardison’s residence to serve an eviction notice. Hardison responded with gunfire. Reports suggest the property was previously owned by Hardison’s father, who sold it earlier this year. As the situation escalated, multiple SWAT teams converged on the location, deploying tear gas after the gunman barricaded himself within the home. After a grueling six-hour gunfight, Hardison was confirmed deceased.
A police source identified the gunman as a proponent of the sovereign citizen movement, a highly unconventional legal philosophy which challenges the authority of the state to enforce laws on private individuals.
Hardison’s son, also named William Hardison, was present at the scene and made a heartfelt plea to his father.
“Dad, please surrender. Please give up,” he said. “You have children and grandchildren that love you dearly. Please stand down.” Another family member Marlene Jones spoke to CBS, sharing that Hardison was a father and grandfather with a deep affection for his pet dogs. She revealed that the house had been bequeathed to Hardison by his brother. However, his mental health had been on a decline for the past year.
The attorney representing the new homeowners informed CBS that officers had been cautioned that the squatter was heavily armed. The situation surrounding his eviction was anticipated to be explosive. Eyewitnesses recounted that the police, after knocking, employed a sledgehammer to gain entry. It was at this juncture that the shooting began.
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