- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A mentally distressed man who died of a gunshot wound after leading police on a high-speed chase discharged his own weapon before a trooper shot at him, police said Thursday.

State police stopped short of saying whether they believe Ryan Senko, 22, of East Huntingdon Township, was fatally wounded by police or his own gun after the Wednesday night chase that began near the campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, about 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.

Senko bought a gun earlier Wednesday and was said by his mother to be distraught over a relationship and in need of mental health treatment, said Trooper Stephen Limani, a spokesman for the barracks in Greensburg.

“We knew he purchased a gun. We knew he was actively searching for his ex-girlfriend,” Limani said.

Senko’s mother had tracked some of her son’s purchases with a debit card using an online banking system while police tried to locate him. Troopers went to a mall where the ex-girlfriend worked and then Pitt-Greensburg, where she was a student, Limani said.

Campus police found Senko’s vehicle, Limani said. When troopers arrived, Senko sped away, leading them on a chase up to 90 mph, much of it on winding rural roads, running stop signs and nearly colliding with other vehicles, Limani said.

A trooper, whose name wasn’t immediately being released, managed to stop Senko by running into Senko’s car, causing it to spin out, Limani said.

As Senko and the trooper sat in their driver’s seats, facing one another, Senko drew his gun and fired and the trooper shot at Senko, he said.

Limani wouldn’t say whether Senko fired at the trooper, in another direction or at himself, saying only that much of the chase and the incident was captured on the trooper’s dashboard video camera.

Limani wouldn’t say what the video revealed but said, “We’re waiting to get confirmation of what we believe happened from the coroner.”

Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck has asked an independent pathologist to conduct an autopsy, the results of which Peck will include in an independent, criminal review.

Peck said Thursday he didn’t anticipate releasing his findings until he could review state police reports and other evidence over the next several days.

Limani said the trooper who fired at Senko will be on paid leave until the state police finish an internal investigation into whether the shooting was justified. That may conclude before Peck’s investigation or it may not, Limani said.

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