A Pennsylvania police officer who fatally shot an unarmed motorist twice in the back was cleared of all wrongdoing by a jury on Thursday.
In February, Hummelstown Police Officer Lisa Mearkle, 37, pulled over 59-year-old David Kassick, who began to run from her for unknown reasons.
Graphic video footage of the fatal encounter (shown below), which took place in Kassick's sister's backyard, was shown to the jury. The Dauphin County district attorney's office released the video to the public on Thursday. After Mearkle stuns Kassick four times with a Taser, the man can be seen collapsing to the snowy ground, his hands fidgeting and at times appearing to reach into his pockets. The victim's brother can be heard screaming at Mearkle to stop. She then pulls out her gun and shoots Kassick twice in the back.
Mearkle said she shot Kassick because she assumed he was reaching for a gun, though she would later find out he didn't have a weapon on him.
"There was no other reason for him to reach in his freaking jacket," Mearkle testified in court on Wednesday. "I didn't want to have to shoot him, but he made me."
A jury deliberated for more than 10 hours before clearing Mearkle of the murder charge Thursday, PennLive.com reported. During the trial, which lasted three days, Mearkle expressed anger at the district attorney's office for charging her in the first place.
"I was only charged for a political reason," she said. "That's how I feel."
Defense attorney Brian Perry argued that officers are not legally obligated to attempt to retreat from a threatening situation before employing deadly force, according to PennLive.com.