DA: Trooper justified in killing armed man in traffic stop

Posted at 10:21 AM, Jul 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-23 11:21:08-04

MOUNT PLEASANT, Pa. (AP) — A prosecutor says a state trooper was justified in shooting and killing an armed man during a traffic stop following a reported theft from a western Pennsylvania mall.

Washington County District Attorney Jason Walsh said Friday that an investigation “unequivocally” concluded that the unnamed trooper reasonably believed that deadly force was needed to prevent death or serious injury to himself.

Walsh said the trooper fired seven shots at Dennis Fonoimoana, 26, of Burgettstown, hitting him five times after he brandished a firearm.

Police said troopers were called to the Washington County mall May 22 after a store reported a retail theft. Police said the suspects’ vehicle was spotted and stopped minutes later in Mount Pleasant Township and the driver was taken into custody, but a passenger refused to leave.

Walsh said the passenger, Fonoimoana, refused to comply with commands to show the trooper his hands, and the trooper believed he heard the rack of a gun and then saw a gun in the man’s hand. Walsh said the trooper repeatedly ordered the man to drop the gun but he refused to do so and turned toward the trooper, who fired.

Walsh said the gun recovered at the scene had been reported stolen and was fully loaded with the safety off. He said two witnesses corroborated the account of the trooper, who was placed on administrative duties during the investigation but will now return to normal duty.