Pa. cop cleared in shooting death of man

DA says the police did not create the situation — the suspect did

By Bill Reed
The Philadelphia Inquirer

PHILADELPHIA — The fatal shooting of a handcuffed and mentally ill Quakertown man by a Perkasie Borough police officer last month was justified, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said Monday.

However, police made several mistakes in trying to arrest Michael Marino, the ranting, resistant suspect who was high on synthetic drugs during the June 9 confrontation in Sellersville, he said.

"The police did not create the situation — he did," Heckler said of Marino, 26. "When confronted by police, as was inevitable given his conduct and had occurred before in his life, he chose to do battle even after he had been restrained, instead of submitting to lawful authority."

Still, the three responding officers should have given the agitated Marino more than five minutes to calm down, and should have taken the 5-foot-6, 160-pound man to a safer spot to subdue him, Heckler said. In addition, the senior officer should not have walked away from the scene at such a critical time.

Marino's family, in a statement issued by their lawyer, said it was not its place to second-guess Heckler's decision not to file criminal charges against the officers.

"However, the undisputed fact remains that an unarmed young man, in the throes of mental illness, was shot with his hands cuffed behind his back, with three police officers on the scene," the family said. "We intend to continue pursuit of all remedies the law provides, with the goal of securing justice for the death of our son, and reforming the procedures of the Perkasie police to prevent such senseless tragedies in the future."

Marino was shot once in the chest after kicking two of the officers, incapacitating one and dazing the other, according to a 10-page report of the investigation by county detectives.

Officer Seth Mumbauer, reeling from kicks to his head and groin and fearing Marino would grab his service revolver, shot Marino at close range, according to the report.

Based on Heckler's statement at a news conference in his Doylestown office and on the investigation report, Marino had a history of mental illness. He lived with his sister, Amber Simione, who was away that weekend. She had told a neighbor that "Mike has not been taking his medication" and that the neighbor should call police if he saw "Mike acting strange."

About 4 p.m. that day, police responded to calls that Marino was blocking traffic, cursing, and threatening people near a convenience store at Clymer and East Park Avenues. It was a hot, dry day, with the temperature in the mid-80s, yet Marino was wearing long underwear, camouflage shorts, and a yellow plastic rain poncho.

Sgt. James Rothrock, who is trained in crisis-intervention techniques, and Officer Steven Graff found Marino outside the vacant EPC Sign building, which he had broken into earlier that day. Mumbauer soon joined them, while a motorcyclist watched nearby.

Marino was agitated, telling the officers, "I feel like I'm God. No, I know that I'm God." When they told him he had to go Grandview Hospital, he responded, "No, I'm not going, and I'm not afraid of you guys."

After Marino was handcuffed behind his back, he briefly calmed down, and Rothrock walked away, toward the motorcyclist.

"As [the motorcyclist] said, 'Everything was going along calm and normal - until it wasn't,' " Heckler said.

As Graff patted down Marino, Marino dropped to the ground, knocking the officer down an embankment. Then he kicked Mumbauer down a hill.

"I knew he was within a few feet of me and could easily jump for me and try to get my gun," Mumbauer said. "I knew he had gotten the upper hand and was still able to fight. I feared for our safety."

Mumbauer fired a shot, and Marino died at the scene.

The next day, police found a crude attempt at a bomb that Marino had left nearby.

The autopsy found traces of synthetic amphetamine, pot, and other stimulants. It also found plastic pellets that Marino had found beneath a rail car.

To prosecute Mumbauer for shooting Marino would make him a "scapegoat" for the system that failed to protect "the public from this drug-abusing, mentally ill, and violent subject," Heckler said.

"However, it is impossible to view the outcome of this interaction as acceptable."

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