Lancaster D.A.: Lititz officer justified in use of deadly force

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A Lititz police officer is cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of a 22-year-old man last December, during a response to a 911 call.

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman justified Officer Joel Hartz’s use of deadly force.

Just after 3 a.m. on December 21. 2013, Chrispina Giliberti made several calls to 911 from her home at 101 Arrowhead Drive in Lititz. She told a dispatcher, “I need help right now. My, my grandson is freaking out. Please hurry.”

Officer Hartz, the only Lititz police officer on-duty at the time, responded.

“These police officers take such a risk for all of us,” Stedman said at a news conference today. “They don’t know what they’re going into, on what may seem like a simple call.”

That simple call turned deadly, ten minutes after the officer arrived. The caller’s grandson, David Giliberti, told Officer Hartz to leave.

He threatened to kill Officer Hartz several times and tried to take the officer’s gun out of his holster.

The officer then used a Taser on Giliberti, who then grabbed a large knife from the kitchen and again threatened to kill the officer.

When Giliberti refused to drop the knife, Officer Hartz fired two shots into the young man’s chest.

“He was shot numerous times and it didn’t deter him,” Stedman said. “Bullets were going through him and if that’s not going to stop them, there was nothing that was going to stop him except, essentially death.”

Officer Hartz fired his gun four more times to stop Giliberti from advancing toward him.

“The loss of life in this case is regrettable,” Stedman said. “It’s tragic, but it was unavoidable and completely justified.”

The D.A. praised Hartz’s critical thinking and actions under extreme stress. But that haunting morning continues to take its toll on the officer, who has not yet returned to work.

“It’s unfortunate, this is a tragedy for both the Giliberti family and for Officer Hartz,” said Chief William Seace of the Lititz Police Department. “We wish him well and hopefully he will come back to us well.”

Officer Hartz has been on administrative leave and worker’s compensation since the shooting. He has been on the Lititz police force for 24 years.

An autopsy revealed that Giliberti did not have any traces in his system of the anti-psychotic medication he was supposed to be taking.