The fatal Saturday morning shooting of a bat-wielding man by Bensalem police was justified, Bucks County District Attorney Diane Gibbons announced yesterday.
Frankie Lopez, 34, died in a stairwell outside his apartment on Knights Road, shot eight times by two police officers, Gibbons said.
Four officers, Lopez's girlfriend, and the woman's brother were in the stairwell when shots were fired around 2:30 a.m. After quarreling with Lopez over his drinking, the girlfriend returned with police to retrieve some children's clothing from their apartment.
Witnesses said that Lopez was chasing officers up the stairwell, a bat raised over his head, when the shots were fired, Gibbons said.
"It was necessary to protect themselves and the two civilians who were on the landing," she said. An autopsy found bullet wounds on the inside of Lopez's arms, indicating they were raised when officers fired.
Neither Gibbons nor Bensalem Public Safety Director Fred Harran would name the officers. One is an eight-year veteran; the other is a rookie.
"It's a horrible situation, but the officers saved the lives of the woman at the apartment, and of themselves and their fellow officers," he said.
Lopez was still on probation for disorderly conduct after tussling with Bensalem police last spring. He had resisted arrest after his girlfriend, Tamara Palouian, accused him of stealing her camcorder and DVDs.
One of the officers who shot Lopez had been involved in the earlier incident, Gibbons said. Because of that history, the officer called in two more officers for backup when summoned again by Palouian on Saturday.
Lopez and Palouian, 24, lived at the Creekside Apartments with their two children, aged 3 and 4. Palouian told authorities that Lopez had been drinking heavily since leaving his job at an outlet store at 3 p.m. Friday.
Palouian had taken the couple's children to her parents' home in Southampton early that evening. Around midnight, she and Lopez clashed violently over his drinking. He struck her in the back of her head and her face, and she hit him back, Gibbons said.
Palouian, her brother and her father complained to the Bensalem police. "She doesn't want him arrested; she wants him out," Gibbons said.
Officers said they could not evict Lopez, Gibbons said, but agreed to help her retrieve some children's clothes.
Palouian found the apartment door secured with a chain latch. The officers assured Lopez that they had not come to arrest him, Gibbons said.
As Lopez berated Palouian for calling police, she retreated to a landing above the apartment with her brother and two backup officers. The other two remained outside the door until Lopez emerged with a baseball bat, Gibbons said.
"They order him multiple times to drop the bat. He proceeds toward the police, and they are backing up, back up the stairs," Gibbons said. "He raises his bat above his head, and they fire their weapons."
Eleven shots were fired, eight of them hitting Lopez, she said.