Lebanon County DA: Trooper justified in December fatal shooting

LEBANON, Pa. --- The Lebanon County District Attorney's Office will not be criminally charging a Pennsylvania State Police trooper following a fatal shooting in December in East Hanover Township.

Investigators say on the morning of December 18, State Police Jonestown attempted to serve an arrest warrant on Mitchell Hammer, 27, for felony aggravated assault with a knife.

Troopers say when they arrived at Hammer's place of work, Boots and Hank Truck Parts, Hammer fled on foot.

During a described "lengthy" pursuit, investigators say two witnesses called police and said Hammer was armed with a Bowie knife.

Lebanon County District Attorney David Arnold, Jr. said a trooper eventually caught up with Hammer at the dead end of a feeder creek running into the Swatara Creek.

“At this point in time, when Mr. Hammer had himself sort of cornered, if you will at that location, he actually turned and advanced back towards the trooper with that bowie knife in a threatening manner, holding it...up and in an aggressive manner towards the trooper,” said Arnold.

Based on testimony from the trooper involved, Arnold said Hammer ignored repeated requests to stop and comply.

Arnold said the trooper slipped and fell in mud while trying to distance himself from Hammer.

Investigators concluded the trooper had no choice but to pull out his gun and shoot Hammer.

“The trooper did not provoke the actions of the suspect nor could he have avoided using deadly force with complete safety for himself and or potentially the other troopers involved in the chase," said Arnold.

Arnold said Hammer was about to get back up after the trooper shot him "four to five times" and continue to advance towards the officer.

Investigators say Hammer was shot a total of seven times before being subdued.

Troopers said they rendered aid to Hammer, bringing him into a field so he could be airlifted to Hershey Medical Center.

Hammer later died there as a result of his injuries.

Arnold said Hammer has a previous history with law enforcement, specifically involving crystal meth.

Arnold also said the autopsy report showed Hammer had crystal meth and several other controlled substances in his system at the time of his death.

Arnold said evidence including the discovery of the Bowie knife near the location Hammer was shot, foot prints and smears in the mud and nine shell casings led investigators to match the trooper's testimony.

Also, Arnold said the wounds on Hammer were consistent to the trooper's testimony.

The trooper involved in the incident was on administrative leave during the investigation.

He has returned to full duty.

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