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Suspect in McKeesport officer shooting held without bail

Jillian Forstadt
90.5 WESA

A man charged in the fatal shooting of a police officer and the wounding of another in western Pennsylvania this week was ordered held without bail during his arraignment Thursday.

Johnathan Jermia Morris, 31, of McKeesport, made his court appearance shortly after he was released from a hospital. He had been wounded when he shot at a third officer, who returned fire.

It wasn't clear Thursday if he has retained an attorney or if he was represented by a lawyer at the hearing.

Morris is charged in Allegheny County with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, attempted murder and assault of a law enforcement officer. The counts stem from the shooting Monday afternoon in McKeesport, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Pittsburgh.

Officers were called to a home shortly after noon Monday over a dispute involving a man who police said was having a “mental health crisis.” He refused to talk to them and walked away from the home, and officers were warned by a family member he might be armed.

When police encountered him nearby, he “suddenly produced a handgun and shot the two McKeesport officers,” said Christopher Kearns, the county’s police superintendent. Officer Sean Sluganski, 32, who had worked for McKeesport police for two years, died at a hospital. The wounded officer, Charles Thomas, was treated and released.

After the shooting, Morris walked around a corner and fired at the third officer, authorities said.

In a criminal complaint, authorities said two witnesses said Morris flagged them down, told them police were trying to kill him and asked them to record video. They said they saw a police cruiser pull up and another officer approach on foot, and then saw Morris pull a handgun and fire at the cruiser and the officer.

Morris, wounded in the leg by return fire, ran to a parking lot and told two people he had been shot and needed help, authorities said. A witness putting a tourniquet on his leg reported seeing Morris pull a handgun and point it at an approaching officer, after which the final exchange of gunfire occurred, according to authorities.

The suspect was later listed in stable condition at a Pittsburgh-area trauma center.

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