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Officer escapes death 4th time this year

Suspect told his wife he wanted to shoot a cop early this morning in Stanton Heights, Pa.

Pittsburgh Tribune Review

PITTSBURGH, Pa.  — Tiant Mitchell told his wife he wanted to shoot a cop early this morning in Stanton Heights, Pittsburgh police said.

Shawnece Moore, 36, pleaded with him to leave their home on Millerdale Street after he pointed a gun at her and her 1-year-old child, and he agreed, walking down the street to get cigarettes just before 5 a.m., Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper said.

Mitchell, 25, fired three shots in the air and when Officer Andrew Baker responded to the call for shots fired, Mitchell began firing his 9 mm handgun before Baker could even get out of his vehicle, Harper said.

Baker’s bullet-proof vest stopped a bullet from hitting his chest and he returned fire, striking both Mitchell and Moore.

“By the grace of God, he was wearing a vest,” Harper said.

Baker, 27, a five year veteran of the department, was taken to UPMC Mercy, where he was evaluated and released a short time later. Baker has a sister and brother who are both police officers with the department.

Moore suffered a gunshot wound to the hand and Mitchell was hit in the buttocks, Harper said. Both are in stable condition at UPMC Presbyterian. Harper put Baker on administrative leave as is standard procedure in an officer-involved shooting.

“I feel very relieved, very blessed,” Harper said. “This could have turned out very bad for Officer Baker.”

Moore told police Mitchell wanted to kill an officer, Harper said.

Baker’s vehicle was struck by bullets four times in the hood and headlamp. He returned fire from behind the door and behind the vehicle, Harper said.

“This officer did everything very well,” Harper said.

In November 2006, Penn Hills police arrested Mitchell and charged him with aggravated assault, carrying a firearm without a license, receiving stolen property and recklessly endangering another person. Mitchell spent nearly two years in jail before he pleaded guilty to the charges and sentenced to 2 to 4 years probation.

In November 2009, Braddock police arrested Mitchell on drug charges and resisting arrest. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen sentenced him to 23 days in jail and one year probation.

This was the fourth officer-involved shooting with Baker, Harper said.

On Sept. 9, Baker was one of several officers involved in a shootout with Monte Blair, 39, of Wilmerding, when police responded to a report of Blair shooting another man in Homewood.

In September, Baker and another officer tried to stop a speeding sport utility vehicle in Point Breeze when the driver, Melvin Taylor Solomon, sped off. Solomon led the officers on a pursuit through Homewood, Wilkinsburg, Penn Hills, Oakmont and Verona, at times reaching speeds of 80 mph, police said, and he repeatedly ran red lights.

Solomon came to a sudden stop in a dead-end alley in Verona and as Baker and the other officer approached the SUV with their guns drawn, Solomon suddenly drove the vehicle in reverse toward the officers. Both officers opened fire, and Solomon drove off, crashing the SUV and fleeing on foot. He was captured a short time later.

In February, Baker was nearly run over by a man who was attempting to flee officers after a drug deal in the Strip District. The man, Brian Lee McCray, told police Baker was standing in his blind spot and he didn’t see him. McCray later fled on foot and police found him hiding in a basement in Highland Park.

Baker has been awarded a Good Conduct Accommodation and a Bureau Citation during his career, which he received for assisting a woman during a flash flood just blocks from the Zone 5 station on Washington Boulevard in August 2011.

Friday’s shooting on Millerdale happened less than a mile from where three Pittsburgh police officers were killed in 2009 after being ambushed by Richard Poplawski at his mother’s Fairfield Street home. Poplawski was sentenced to death.

Reprinted with permission from Pittsburgh Tribune Review

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