MOUNT PLEASANT – A prosecutor says a state trooper was justified in shooting and killing a gunman during a traffic stop following a reported robbery at a mall in western Pennsylvania.
Washington County District Attorney Jason Walsh said on Friday an investigation found “unequivocally” that the unnamed soldier reasonably believed lethal force was necessary to prevent death or serious injury.
Walsh said the soldier fired seven shots at Dennis Fonoimoana, 26, of Burgettstown, hitting him five times after brandishing a gun.
Police said troopers were called to the Washington County mall on May 22 after a store reported a retail theft. Police say the suspects’ vehicle was spotted and stopped minutes later in Mount Pleasant Township and the driver was arrested, but a passenger refused to leave.
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Walsh said the passenger, Fonoimoana, refused to comply with orders to show the soldier his hands, and the soldier thought he heard a gun rack, then saw a gun in the man’s hand . Walsh said the soldier repeatedly ordered the man to drop the gun, but he refused to do so and turned to the soldier, who fired.
Walsh said the gun recovered from the scene was reported stolen and was fully loaded without the safety. He said two witnesses corroborated the account of the soldier, who was placed in administrative duties during the investigation but will now return to normal duties.