Prosecution decision of Center Twp.  police officer referred to the state’s attorney general

Prosecution decision of Center Twp. police officer referred to the state’s attorney general

BEAVER – The decision to prosecute a Center Township officer accused of killing a good Samaritan last year will now be made by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office because of a conflict of interest concern.

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Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier said this week the county referred the prosecution decision to the state due to a conflict of interest in the death of 48-year-old Ken Vinyard. Lozier said the officer was involved in the incident, which the Vinyard family’s attorney Joel Sansone identified as Officer John Hawk, is a part-time employee of his office as a member of the Beaver County SWAT team.

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The investigation into Hawk began when witnesses said the off-duty officer killed Vinyard while the Industry man was trying to help a shooting victim in the parking lot of Center Township’s Walmart Plaza on Nov. 6. According to Sansone, Hawk confronted Vinyard in plainclothes and forced him to the ground with what eyewitnesses described as “a takedown.”

Vinyard became unresponsive after hitting the ground and was taken to the hospital for medical treatment. He was later pronounced dead, prompting an investigation into the incident by the Pennsylvania State Police.

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Now that the case has been transferred to the attorney general’s office, that agency will make the final decision on whether charges will be filed against the officer for his actions. Prior to that, the agency will review the investigation conducted by state troopers and consider the information presented by the Beaver County Coroner’s office.

At this time, the coroner’s office has not made an official decision on the cause and manner of death of Vinyard. An independent autopsy was also ordered by Vinyard’s family after the incident.

Lozier said the county is still handling the prosecution of 23-year-old Yeshua Bratcher, of Aliquippa, who is accused of being the shooter in the inciting incident. Bratcher, who is charged with attempted homicide and aggravated assault, is currently scheduled to go to trial on May 8.

This is the second recent incident involving Center Township police under investigation. State police are also looking into the circumstances that led to a man apparently shooting himself to death Aug. 12 while being driven in the back of a police cruiser on Brodhead Road near Pleasant Drive.

This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Prosecution decision of Center Twp. officer referred to PA attorney general

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