Officers recognized for critical incident response

Police officers lined up in the municipal building.
Police officers involved in a gun battle stemming from a call on Gilkeson Road last summer were honored with awards. From left: Deputy Chief Jason Haberman, Deputy Chief Paul Petras, Lt. Patrick O’Brien, Police Officers Ryan Miller, Grant Nagy, Matthew Bradburn, Jacob Elk, Elizabeth Lewis, and Chief Aaron Lauth.

everal Mt. Lebanon police officers received awards and decorations for their actions while responding to a murder-suicide call on Gilkeson Road in the early hours of July 29.

The caller told the dispatcher that he shot his parents and that he wished to turn himself in to  police. Police officers had responded to previous calls at the address, and tailored their response to the situation by requesting mutual aid from Dormont and Castle Shannon, and establishing a command post in the parking lot at The Galleria, across the street from the house.

Watch commander Lt. Patrick O’Brien devised a plan to set up a perimeter and safely take the suspect into custody. Mt. Lebanon officers Ryan Miller and Elizabeth Lewis, joined by Dormont officers Rob Barnes and George Dailey, established a perimeter several houses away from the suspect’s house, as Mt. Lebanon officers Jacob Elk and Matthew Bradburn set up behind cover on the hillside to the rear of the house.

Once officers were in position, Castle Shannon Lt. David Lane and Officer Dan Janeda, who are trained in negotiation, contacted the suspect by phone. The suspect was calm and told officers he was ready to surrender, but then burst out of the front door firing an automatic rifle at the perimeter team, striking Barnes in the lower torso.

As the officers were evaluating Barnes’ injuries, the suspect made his way to the rear of the residence and engaged in a gun battle with Elk and Bradburn, pinning them down in the thick brush and trees on the steep hillside at the rear of the target residence. While attempting to seek better cover, Bradburn injured his knee and found it difficult to move. Recognizing that Bradburn was in imminent danger, Elk assisted him to a location where he could be evacuated and treated for his injuries.

As the suspect continued shooting, the involved officers maintained tactical positions while attempting to care for their injured counterparts. At some point during the chaos, the suspect escaped in his vehicle, but only made it a short distance down Route 19 before rolling the vehicle in Upper St. Clair. Officers discovered the suspect deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Officers involved in the incident were honored with awards. Officer Grant Nagy received the Chief’s Commendation in recognition of the detailed intelligence file he compiled on the suspect, who had refused repeated efforts to seek treatment for mental illness.

The department’s Medal of Valor, given for exceptional bravery at imminent risk of serious bodily injury, is the department’s second highest award. O’Brien received the medal for his command of the incident. Miller, Lewis, Elk and Bradburn were also decorated for their actions.

Elk also received the department’s top award, the Medal of Honor, given to officers who voluntarily distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry and extraordinary heroism. While under fire, Elk moved from a safe spot in the underbrush to reach the injured Bradburn and pull him to safety.

Chief Aaron Lauth regretted the loss of life, but praised the officers’s response.

“They all performed professionally and heroically, and their actions and assistance prevented further injury to their peers and other community members.”