Lancaster County DA: Police Officer justified in shooting and killing man in September

LANCASTER, Pa. --- Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman announced Friday afternoon that an officer *was justified in shooting Ricardo Avenia, 29, back in September.

In September, authorities said Avenia was shot and killed inside a home on the 500 block of Pershing Avenue while holding a 27-year old woman at gunpoint.

Stedman said the decision comes after a two month investigation that included interviews with the victim, friends and responding officers, as w

ell as safety coalition cameras, dashcam footage, and recordings of the 911 call and police scanner communications.

“Based on the interviews with her, based on what the officers said, there’s just absolutely no doubt that this was the only choice the police officer had. Not just justified, this was the right thing to do," said Stedman.

Stedman said their investigation f

ound Avenia held a long-term relationship with the victim, which they describe as "extremely dysfunctional."

Stedman detailed years of severely physical and emotional abuse.

The victim filed for a Protection From Abuse order against Avenia in 2015 but it was dropped when Stedman said she didn't come to court.

“She had texted people more than once that if something happens to me tonight, Macho did it. That was the nickname he went by," said Stedman.

On the night of September 16, investigators say Avenia beat and threatened the victim, leading his children to call out a second floor window of the home for help.

A neighbor nearby called police.

Officers were informed that Avenia was possible armed.

Stedman said a total of four officers were involved in the situation.

The first officer on scene, Stedman said, confirmed that he saw Avenia with a gun and was pointing it at the victim's head.

Investigators say the victim was on the floor of the kitchen inside the home.

Stedman said the first officer on-scene was armed with a pistol and chose not to shoot out of accuracy concerns of making the situation worse.

A third officer, armed with a rifle, trade

d places with the aforementioned officer and took one shot.

The bullet hit Avenia in the back of the head with Stedman saying it immediately killed Avenia.

Investigators say it took a span of eight minutes between the initial 911 call and the shot being fired.

Chief Jarrad Berkihiser of the Lancaster City Bureau of Police said he was proud of the officers quick response during what he calls one of their most dangerous calls: domestic violence situations.

“Because of the dynamics involved, the emotion involved in those calls and they always involve some sort of violence," said Chief Berkihiser.

Investigators say they recovered a loaded .40 caliber handgun at the scene.

Stedman said they found a strand of the victim’s hair stuck to the sight on the gun.

He said he is "convinced" the officer saved the victim's life during the "tragic" situation.

“Everybody involved is a loser as far as this goes. Especially the two children who have lost their father,” said Stedman.

Stedman said they will not identify the officers involved or the person who first called 911 out of fear of retribution.

Stedman said a request from police says officers received physical and emotional threats involving them and their families during the incident.

Chief Berkihiser said the officer who fired the shot is back at work after time on paid administrative leave.

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