Pa. sheriff's deputy kept cool as bullets flew in pursuit

A bullet came within inches of his head

By Aaron Aupperlee
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pa. — A bullet came within inches of his head.

Others peppered his patrol car — one punching a hole in a passenger door, another ricocheting off the hood.

But sheriff's Sgt. Kevin Faulds, no stranger to gunfights or car chases, kept going.

He pursued Tyrone Dale Harris Jr. until heavy traffic stopped the chase on Route 51 and police, under fire, shot and killed the 20-year-old Knoxville man.

"He's one of the guys who is in the right place at the right time and takes action," Sheriff William P. Mullen said, noting that Faulds' bravery likely kept other officers safe during the chase.

Faulds, 38, a 16-year veteran of the sheriff's office, declined to talk about Monday's shooting. Mullen said Faulds regards the city police and Port Authority officers who fired at Harris, eventually killing him, as the heroes of that day.

"They stopped the threat," Mullen said. "Who knows what would have happened had they not stopped the threat there?"

Harris started shooting at people with an AR-15-style rifle just after 10 a.m. in Knoxville, police said. He carjacked a white Buick and drove toward Brownsville Road.

Faulds spotted the Buick on Brownsville Road. He drove past it and looked right at Harris, who didn't respond or speed up, Mullen said, recounting a conversation he had with his sergeant after the shooting.

As Faulds turned his patrol car around to follow the Buick, he saw Harris lean out the window and start shooting. One round went through the top of the windshield on the passenger side of Faulds' cruiser. The car's visor and the windshield's frame deflected the bullet down and toward Faulds. The bullet ripped through the headrest of Faulds' seat, inches from his head, and shattered the backseat window, Mullen said.

Faulds didn't realize how close the bullet came until later that day.

Faulds maneuvered the patrol car behind a bus for protection. Harris stopped shooting and drove away. Faulds pulled out from behind the bus and followed Harris but left about 50 to 100 feet between the cars.

Knowing Harris had a high-powered rifle, he didn't want to follow too closely, Mullen said. Faulds radioed to other responding officers that Harris had a rifle and advised them to keep their distance.

"The deputy calls out that he's under fire, (and) he bravely continues to follow the vehicle," Pittsburgh police Chief Cameron McLay said Monday.

Faulds began working for the sheriff's office in 1999. In 2002, he went to assist police chasing a man suspected in a shooting, spotted him and arrested him after a brief pursuit.

He was promoted to sergeant in 2011 and supervises deputies in the writs division.

In 2013, Faulds subdued three men attacking and shooting each other Downtown. The American Red Cross gave him the Professional Responder Hero Award that year. Amen Corner, which honors police annually, gave him the Courageous Act Award. But then, as now, Faulds deflected celebrity.

"There are officers every day, probably right now, who are fighting against guys who have weapons that are trying to be used against them," he told a Tribune-Review reporter a day after the gunfight in 2013.

Mullen said he offered Faulds the day off, but the sergeant declined. Reports and paperwork from the shooting will keep him busy for a few days, Mullen said.

Copyright 2015 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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