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Man to Stand Trial for Attempted Homicide in Police Shootout

April 18, 2002
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Man to Stand Trial for Attempted Homicide in Police Shootout

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A man will stand trial on attempted homicide charges for a Feb. 20 shootout in which he and two city police officers were shot, but the drug charges that brought police to his home in the first place were dismissed.

Cecil Brookins, 42, was jailed in Allegheny County after Chief City Magistrate William Simmons on Thursday ordered him to stand trial on more than 20 counts, including attempted homicide and carrying a concealed weapon.

Simmons dismissed three charges related to 200 grams of heroin allegedly found that day, ruling police didn't prove the drugs belonged to Brookins rather than other people in the house at the time.

Police were serving a search warrant to look for drugs, and to arrest Brookins for failing to appear in a court case, when the standoff occurred.

Cmdr. Dom Costa testified that Brookins was relaxed and cordial after Costa coaxed him off the roof and through a window into an upstairs room. but when Brookins saw SWAT team members crouched nearby, the mood changed.

"I followed (SWAT) Officer (Thomas) Huerbin into the room and saw Mr. Brookins crouched and firing a silver revolver," SWAT officer Patrick Knepp testified. "I got down in a kneeling position and engaged the actor."

But before Knepp shot Brookins five times, Brookins shot at Costa twice - one shot whizzing past his head, the second hitting him in the shoulder. Huerbin was also hit twice in his bulletproof vest, police said.

Brookins' attorney, James Ecker, said he was happy the drug charges are dismissed. Ecker said it will eventually be shown that police weren't justified in shooting his client, but he stopped short of saying why.

Brookins said after the hearing that he didn't "wish to see anybody hurt. I wish there was peace on this planet."

Multiple investigations are ongoing into how the standoff degenerated into a shootout, and why Brookins wasn't already in jail at the time.

Officials have said Brookins was released from the county jail due to an apparent clerical error, having served only 14 days of a 29- to 58-month sentence for another confrontation with police while carrying an unlicensed gun and wearing a bulletproof vest.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala announced an inquiry last month into whether bribes were involved in Brookins' release.

That caught other investigating officials off guard, including the county police and a committee that county Chief Executive Jim Roddey formed in late February to investigate jail procedures.

Headed by former U.S. Attorney Tom Corbett, the committee was asked to issue a report within 45 days, but has yet to do so.

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