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May 4, 2013

‘Tragic day’: DA reflects on death of Shenango police officer

NEW CASTLE — On the day Jerry McCarthy observed his one-year anniversary with the Shenango police, he died on duty.

William J. McCarthy IV, 60, was pronounced dead at 10:22 p.m. Thursday after the township police car he was in was T-boned.

Police said the accident at the intersection of South Cascade Street and Warren Avenue was a result of Kylee Gwen Barletto ramming the cruiser. Barletto, 25, of 693 Hoover Road, was driving with a suspended license and fleeing New Castle police, officials said.

Hospitalized with lacerations and head injuries in Youngstown’s St. Elizabeth Health Center, Barletto faces 15 charges. They are: manslaughter of a law enforcement officer, homicide by vehicle, fleeing or attempting to elude police, involvement in an accident involving death or injury while operating privileges are suspended, involuntary manslaughter, recklessly endangering another person, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of simple assault, four stop sign violations, careless driving and reckless driving.

Pennsylvania state police filed charges before District Judge Jennifer Nicholson. Barletto is expected to be extradited from Ohio and arraigned following her discharge from the hospital.

Court records in Lawrence County include seven traffic violations filed against Barletto, among them three counts of driving with a suspended or revoked license last June.

“Yesterday was a tragic day,” Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa said. He spoke at a press conference Friday morning at the state police station in Neshannock Township.

“We lost a brother, a good friend and a great man.”

At just before 10 p.m. Thursday, Lamancusa said, a New Castle police officer observed a red Pontiac Sunbird driving erratically on Jefferson Street. He said the officer activated his lights and siren to pull over the driver — Barletto — who initially slowed, then sped away, running at least four stop signs.

The officer called for backup, Lamancusa said, and was joined by additional city cars and a Shenango Township cruiser with part-time policemen Michael Lynch, 35, driving and McCarthy in the passenger seat.

The Shenango cruiser was traveling on Cascade Street, Lamancusa explained, and not in pursuit. He said the officers believed they were paralleling the chase.

“They had intended to get in front of her and put down some spike strips.”

However, at the intersection with Warren Avenue, Barletto’s car hit the Shenango cruiser.

“The impact pushed the cruiser 200 feet and into another vehicle,” Lamancusa said. “McCarthy was critically injured.”

He died at the scene but was pronounced dead at Jameson Hospital, according to Lamancusa.

Lynch sustained a fractured right hip and ankle, Lamancusa said, and has been discharged from the hospital. “He is consulting with an orthopedic specialist.”

McCarthy — retired from the Grove City police department — was a family man, Lamancusa pointed out, with three children and two stepchildren.

In addition to the Shenango force, he worked part time for the district attorney. He had been hired in February 2011 as a county detective and humane officer.

“We have a lot of animal issues,” Lamancusa explained. “He protected animals from people.”

He said McCarthy was ideal in that position because he had “infinite patience, he was not easily offended and was a good man.”

Lamancusa said he does not know if Barletto deliberately rammed the police car, “but there is no doubt that she knew that police were following her.”

The state police are investigating and doing an accident reconstruction, he said, and until it is completed, he won’t comment on the speed of Barletto’s car or the pursuing police.

Lamancusa said hospital officials took blood samples from Barletto to determine if drugs or alcohol was involved.

He added police have taken custody of her car and will determine if there had been any problems with the brakes, turn signals or lights.

“This started as a minor traffic incident by a driver without a license but decisions were made that cost an officer his life.”

Police said Barletto told the interviewing officer, “I did something stupid.”

They also said she had told him she did not stop because her driver’s license was suspended. State police said she had told them there had been something wrong with her vehicle and she couldn’t stop.

According to police, Barletto had told an ambulance attendant she remembered being chased by police but did not know if her license was suspended.

Following Friday’s press conference, New Castle Police Chief Bobby Salem said every department has policies regarding high-speed chases, including his.

“This was not a high-speed pursuit,” he said. “My officer was following her. He didn’t even see the crash. He was too far back.”

State police are providing patrol support to Shenango at the request of Lamancusa, Salem and the township’s police superintendent.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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