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Police & Fire

Berks DA: Officer Justified In Deadly Police Shooting Of 62-Year-Old Muhlenberg Twp. Man

DA John T. Adams speaking at a press conference on April 15.
DA John T. Adams speaking at a press conference on April 15. Photo Credit: Berks County District Attorney's Office

A nearly month-long investigation determined that a Muhlenberg Township police officer was justified in their use of force in a shooting that left a 62-year-old man dead, authorities announced.

Police were called to Steven Hughes' house around 2:15 p.m. on March 15 when his niece reportedly called 911. Arriving officers found Hughes locked inside of a second-floor bedroom in his Wagon Wheel Lane home.

After gaining entry into the room, police told Hughes to drop the knife, but refused, prompting an officer to tase him, the Berks County District Attorney's office said. When that didn't work, a second officer shot Hughes in the chest, authorities said.

Hughes was taken to an area hospital trauma unit, where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

An autopsy conducted by the County coroner's office determined that he died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.

An investigation further determined that Hughes' niece made a second 911 call after she was reportedly told by mental health professionals to contact police since Hughes -- described as someone with mental health issues -- was armed and deemed a threat, DA John T. Adams said in a press conference Thursday.

The niece reportedly told officers that Hughes had a history of violence against her grandmother, who also lives at the home, but was not present at the time of the incident, DA Adams said.

"Mental health workers are not trained to enter into situations where someone is armed and dangerous. They are not equipped, nor will they respond to an incident where they're going to be put in harm's way. That is not, unfortunately, what mental health workers are trained to do," DA Adams said.

"So when we have someone with mental health issues and with a firearm or deadly weapon, that is a lethal combination. Unfortunately, things that have happened here can take place."

Toxicology reports from Penn State Health -- St. Joseph Medical Center indicated that Hughes had a BAC of 0.268 -- which is over three times higher than the legal limit to drive a car in Pennsylvania, DA Adams said.

Hughes was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer early last year and has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment for both ever since, according to his daughter Anjie L. Hughes.

"What the police did was wrong, unjustified, intentionally done in private, and completely preventable," she previously told Daily Voice. "You could have knocked him over with a stick."

"After his chemo treatments, he sometimes would be confused and emotional for a while," Anjie told Daily Voice.

According to DA John Adams, the taser that was deployed, " hit a metal area of Hughes' sweatshirt," which failed to allow the taser to be of proper use.

"It did not stop him. He continued to go toward officers brandishing the knife," DA Adams said.

A statement released by the DA's office reads as follows:

"District Attorney John T. Adams concludes that the officer was reasonable in his belief that he and the other officer were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury due to Hughes' actions of refusing to comply with all police commands and by advancing towards the officers with a knife. It is also reasonable to believe that Hughes had the intent and means to inflict death or serious bodily injury to the officers and the officer's use of deadly force under these circumstances was reasonable and therefore privileged under Pennsylvania law. While it is unfortunate that a life was lost, the action taken by the officer involved was for protecting himself and his fellow officer."

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