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Use of force justified in Chambersburg Hospital shooting

Written by Staff | Nov 10, 2016 8:02 AM
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State Police are investigating an incident at Chambersburg Hospital following an incident on Thursday morning, November 3, 2016. (Photo: Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion)

(Chambersburg) -- A shooting which resulted in the death of an armed patient at Chambersburg Hospital by Chambersburg Police has been deemed "absolutely and unequivocally justified," according to a news release from the Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal.

At about 8:15 a.m. on Nov. 3, Dennis Kirk, a patient at Chambersburg Hospital in room 2236, became agitated and threatened to harm a nurse assigned to supervise him that morning. The release shows Kirk wanted to be discharged and felt he was being inappropriately detained at the hospital.

Kirk was prone to falling given his medical condition, and was under constant supervision in a one-on-one status and hospital staff was with him constantly. Kirk got his backpack, pulled out two knives and moved towards the nurse with the tip of one of the knives facing him.

The nurse then left the room and held the door shut so Kirk could not pursue him with the knife, while other staff called for the code green - the hospital's designation for "violent behavior." Other medical personnel also helped the nurse in preventing Kirk from leaving the room.

Two deputy sheriffs with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office were already in the hospital and immediately responded to the code green. One of the deputies talked to Kirk through the door, and could see him through a window in the door. Kirk responded by saying "[Expletive]. You are a little boy [expletive]. Come in here and die." Kirk told them he planned on killing whoever came into the room.

Four officers from the Chambersburg Police Department then arrived and attempted to talk to Kirk, to which he said, "[Expletive]. Pigs."

When he walked away from the door, and across the room towards the window at the far end of the room, the officers entered and one officer deployed his stun gun. The stungun was not able to properly penetrate the thick leather coat that Kirk was wearing.

Kirk turned toward the officers with the knife in his right hand, and officers continued to asked him to drop the knife and get on the ground. Kirk continued towards them, and police deployed stun guns two more times, which also had a minimal effect on him.

Kirk continued to move towards one specific officer with his knife in a stabbing position, Closing the distance between him and the officer.

"At that point, due to the imminent harm, another officer discharged two rounds from his department-issued firearm at almost 'point-blank' range," Fogal said in the release.

The first shot was a "through and through" and the second shot lodged in Kirk's right side.

After Kirk was shot, officers attempted to disarm him while he firmly gripped the knife. Kirk recieved first aid and treatment from medical staff, but he died due to the injuries from the gunshots.

"Here the use of deadly force was not only permitted, it was necessary in order to protect another from being stabbed," the Fogal said in the report. "Certainly, no one delights in taking the life of another, but the actions of all of these law enforcement officers were utterly reasonable, appropriate and correct. Given the real threat that the deceased voiced and later attempted to act upon, I am very happy that no officers were injured or worse."

Assisting in the investigation was Pennsylvania State Police, the Franklin County Coroner's Office, Chambersburg Police and Chambersburg Hospital.

Fogal said he does not plan on releasing the names of the officers involved.

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and Public Opinion Online.

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