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May 13, 2006
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Pa. officer who accidentally killed colleague retires

By William J. Ford Of The Morning Call

Copyright 2006 The Morning Call, Inc. 

Matthew Renninger, the Easton policeman who fatally shot fellow officer Jesse Sollman at police headquarters last year, has retired, closing another chapter in a tragedy that stunned the community and demoralized the department.

"It was an option he chose," Mayor Phil Mitman said Wednesday. "I can't say no more because there are more legal processes he can go through."

Mitman and his chief of staff, Stu Gallaher, declined to say if they intended to fire Renninger, a recommendation made by a state grand jury that investigated the March 25, 2005, shooting and released a scathing report almost two months ago.

City Council at a meeting Wednesday night learned about Renninger from Mitman, who presented a memo that says the 36-year-old officer's retirement is effective immediately.

The memo is in response to a letter from lawyer Gary Asteak notifying the city that his client "tenders his retirement as an employee."

Assistant city solicitor Joel M. Scheer responded to Asteak's letter on Tuesday, saying the administration "is treating it as an application for disability retirement benefits pursuant to the police pension ordinance, and it will be reviewed accordingly."

Business Administrator Steve Humphrey said an officer must have at least 12 years of service to receive full retirement benefits. Renninger, whose salary was $54,772 last year, had eight years of service. He was hired Feb. 9, 1998.

Gallaher said the city ordinance permits Renninger to qualify for a percentage of pension benefits. "You put in your time, you get your pension," he said.

There's no timetable for a decision on Renninger's pension, Gallaher said, but "we are going to move as quickly as possible. It behooves us to not hold this up."

Council did not discuss Renninger during its three-hour meeting. Members Ken Brown and Carole Heffley, who is liaison to the Police Department, declined to comment afterward because "it's a personnel issue."

Asteak, of Easton, could not be reached for comment.

The grand jury report detailed how Renninger accidentally shot Sollman, 36, in a gun-cleaning room on the second floor of the police station. Both were members of the Special Weapons and Tactics team, which was disbanded four months after Sollman's death.

The grand jury recommended Renninger not be charged because his actions were "unintentional and without malice."

Lawyer John P. Karoly Jr. of South Whitehall Township, representing the Sollman family, plans to file a lawsuit against Renninger and the city.

Council still must decide whether it will vote on a resolution to contribute money toward Sollman's funeral expenses. Carin Sollman and the city's police union want the city to pay the entire expense, nearly $20,000.

william.ford@mcall.com

610-559-2142 

Full story: Pa. officer who accidentally killed colleague retires






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