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Catasauqua shooting death justified, Lehigh DA rules

Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin on Tuesday ruled the shooting death of a man on Feb. 19 by a Catasauqua police officer was justified.

Ryan D. Shirey, 27, died of gunshot wounds to the head and abdomen, according to Lehigh County Coroner Eric Minnich, who ruled the manner of death to be a homicide - death at the hands of another.

In a letter to Chief Douglas Kish of the Catasauqua Police Department, Martin said the shooting action by Officer Joelle Mota came after the victim ran toward him with a gun raised and pointed in his direction. Reports indicate the officer discharged his firearm five times resulting in the fatal injuries.

Martin said he ruled on the shooting after reviewing a “very comprehensive” report conducted by Trooper Char Burry and the major case team of the Pennsylvania State Police, Troop M, Bethlehem. County Detective James Bruchak and the Lehigh County Homicide Task Force also participated in the investigation.

The district attorney said Mota and officers Patrick Best and Jenna Dumansky-Potak responded to 133 S. 14th St. in Catasauqua for a domestic disturbance in progress. At some point, the victim was in the basement, armed with a .38-caliber revolver, when the altercation took place. Martin said his review of body camera video and interrogation of people involved in the incident verified Shirey was a threat to the officer.

Saying the PA Crimes Code reads “a police officer is justified in using deadly force only when he believed that such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself and another person,” the district attorney said, “My review of the investigative reports, including statements of the various witnesses and review of body camera video from three Catasauqua officers present and in proximity at the time of the shooting, convinced me that this shooting was justified under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

Martin said he does not believe there is a basis to file any criminal charges against Mota and that the file on the incident is officially “closed.”