02/02/2007

Pittsburgh police fatally shoot armed drug suspect

By David Morrison
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh police shot and killed a man who tried to run away after officers said they saw him trying to sell drugs in the parking lot of an Exxon gas station in Lower Lawrenceville yesterday afternoon.

The shooting happened about 5:12 p.m. on the corner of 40th Street and Penn Avenue, tying up afternoon rush-hour traffic as police vehicles and news helicopters converged on the scene.

The man, identified as Michael Lee Ghafoor, 22, was armed with a .357-caliber Magnum, which he drew but did not fire at police.

Police Chief Nate Harper said Mr. Ghafoor was shot when he turned to face officers during the chase.

Police initially reported him as conscious and alert after he was shot, but police spokeswoman Diane Richard said he died after he was rushed to UPMC Presbyterian.

Chief Harper gave this account of the shooting:

Officers from the bureau's Street Response Unit saw what they believed to be a drug deal taking place in the parking lot of the Exxon gas station involving two people.

The officers recognized Mr. Ghafoor from previous encounters and moved in to arrest him. Mr. Ghafoor, however, saw the officers and began running north on 40th Street.

Chief Harper said officers tried to apprehend Mr. Ghafoor with a police dog that was part of the Street Response Unit.

Chief Harper said the dog grabbed Mr. Ghafoor by the arm, but he was able to shake it off by slinging it through the air and against some parked cars.

Officers also tried to use a Taser to subdue Mr. Ghafoor, but he was wearing heavy clothing, which made the Taser ineffective.

Chief Harper said officers chased Mr. Ghafoor for about a half a block before telling him to stop and drop his weapon.

Mr. Ghafoor then turned toward officers with his gun drawn, which was when one of the officers shot him in the torso.

According to Chief Harper, one officer fired his weapon. Mr. Ghafoor was shot three times.

"If the suspect would have stopped, there would have been another way (to apprehend him)," Chief Harper said.

Chief Harper declined to say how many times the officer fired or name the officer, but did say the officer was placed on administrative leave, which is standard policy for the bureau.

Chief Harper said Mr. Ghafoor threw a cell phone and crack cocaine out of his pockets during the chase.

Witnesses who declined to be named said they heard four to six shots. The witnesses said Mr. Ghafoor then ran into a police car near the intersection of 40th and Penn when they heard shooting.

Police closed several streets in the vicinity, and Port Authority buses were rerouted.

Police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said Mr. Ghafoor was wanted in connection with two assaults involving guns on the North Side within the last two months.

Mr. Ghafoor was wanted on an arrest warrant in connection with a shooting on the North Side in December. In that case, a woman was shot and wounded near the corner of Shadeland and Woodland avenues in Marshall-Shadeland.

In another case, shortly after that shooting, Mr. Ghafoor pointed a shotgun at someone on Brighton Road, police said.

Copyright 2007 P.G. Publishing Co.

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