Easton Officer Cleared in South Side Shooting
District Attorney says an Easton patrolman who shot and wounded a man last week was justified in using deadly force.
On the night of August 21, Easton police Officer Eric Campbell was patrolling the city's South Side, investigating reported gunfire.
He encountered a group of men. One of them, later indentified as Nelson Mayers, ran away, heading down Wierbach Street near Centre Street.
Campbell gave chase, calling for Mayers to stop. Mayers, 25, of 628 W. Berwick St. reached into his waistband, and pulled out a black object, and held it out towards Campbell. Campbell fired two shots from his handgun, one of them hitting Mayers in the leg.
Mayers fell to the ground, and tossed away the thing he'd pulled from his waistband: a black cellphone.
That's the account of the shooting given Thursday by Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, who has cleared Campbell of any criminal wrongdoing.
Morganelli said that in dark alleyway, with a suspect holding a black object in a situation where gunfire was involved, Campbell was justified in using deadly force when he shot and wounded Mayers.
"The situation demanded a split second judgement," Morganelli said at a news conference in his office. "We're not ging to have dead police officers because of a fear of acting too hastily."
Morganelli said he arrived at this conclusion based on interviews with Campbell, witnesses that come forward, and with Mayers himself.
"His version of events is not much different," he told reporters. "It all fits together."
Morganelli declined to go into detail about the descrepancies between Mayers version of what happened and the other accounts.
According to Morganlli, there were five factors that led to his decision not to charge Campbell:
- Campbell and his fellow officers were in a situation where armed suspects were involved.
- Mayers acted in a way that caused Campbell to be concerned for his safety: pulling a black object that appeared to be a gun.
- The area where the shooting happened was dark, and there was about 30 feet between Campbell and Mayers.
- There have been numerous other gun-related incidents in the city recently.
- Although Campbell used deadly force, he only wounded Mayers, who was shot in the right front shin.
Campbell remains on paid administrative leave pending an interal investigation of whether he followed proper department policy in the shooting, said police Chief Carl Scalzo.
Assuming he's cleared by that investigation, Campbell will also need to see a police psychologist before returning to duty.
Mayers has been charged with possession of heroin, which found hidden between his buttocks at the hospital after the shooting, police said.
No other charges have been filed in connection with the initial gunfire calls, but police say that matter is still being investigated.
Mayers was shot and wounded five years ago in a robbery on the South Side. Speaking to reporters on the night of the shooting, his sister said he may have run from police out of fear caused by that robbery.