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Police: Man charged with shooting Pa. officers had talked of previous killing spree plans

Less than a month before the shooting, the man allegedly called an out of state credit union and said he was going to go on a killing spree


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By Megan Guza
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

MCKEESPORT, Pa. — Less than a month before he’s accused of shooting two McKeesport police officers, killing one and wounding the other, Johnathan Morris allegedly called an out of state credit union and said he was going to go on a killing spree.

McKeesport police were asked to do a welfare check at Mr. Morris’ Wilson Street home Jan. 13 after they were contacted by another police department.

The call came in just after 12:30 p.m., and police were dispatched by 1:37 p.m., according to Allegheny County 911 call logs for the address on Wilson Street.

“He made threats to a credit union over the phone, [said] he was going to go on a killing spree,” the dispatcher said about Mr. Morris, according to archived police radio traffic.

An officer asked if there were any prior incidents at that home. The dispatcher said no.

Officers went to the home, arriving about 1:43 p.m., records show, but got no answer.

“We’re getting no response at the door,” an officer said, noting that there were no vehicles at the home either. “Are you sure about the address?”

“That’s affirmative,” the dispatcher answered. “I do have a phone number for that male as well as the police deputy as well.”

Minutes later, an officer said they were “unable to make contact,” and the call was closed by 1:49 p.m.

Mr. Morris is accused of opening fire on Officers Sean Sluganski and Charles Thomas on Monday afternoon after they were called to the same Wilson Street home for a domestic dispute. The caller, Mr. Morris’ mother, said her son was an ex-Marine and was having a PTSD episode.

Officials have said McKeesport police were familiar with Mr. Morris, though they have not elaborated on the extent of any prior contact they had with him. Chief Adam Alfer could not be reached Thursday.

The police dispatcher in Monday’s incident told the two responding officers that the mother, Candace Tyler, said weapons were accessible in the home but one was not involved in the altercation at that time.

Mr. Morris had walked away by the time the officers arrived. He was spotted several times throughout the neighborhood before Officer Thomas pulled up next to him at 1300 Grandview Ave. As Officer Thomas pulled into the alley adjacent to the address, Mr. Morris allegedly shot through the police cruiser’s windshield, hitting Officer Thomas in the face and neck.

Witnesses told police he then turned and shot at Officer Sluganski, who was approaching on foot.

Officer Thomas was able to return fire, and Mr. Morris was shot in the leg.

Mr. Thomas was released from the hospital Thursday afternoon and taken to the Allegheny County Jail. He was arraigned about 1 p.m. in front of District Judge Jehosha Wright, who denied Mr. Morris bail.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 17. Court records did not list an attorney as of Thursday evening.

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