- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - One of three officers who fired at a child-rape suspect wasn’t high on cocaine although he admitted he had used the drug days before and the fatal shooting itself was justified, a prosecutor said Wednesday in announcing that criminal charges would not be filed.

Members of a U.S. marshals-led task force fired at Leslie Sapp III when they went to his Pittsburgh home to arrest him Jan. 6 and he confronted them with what they believed was a gun, District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. said. The 47-year-old man died; his “gun” turned out to be a toy without the orange barrel tip that would have indicated it was not a real weapon.

As part of the investigation, the officers who fired at Sapp had to submit to a drug test and cocaine metabolites were found in the urine of then-Allegheny County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Dwyer, the prosecutor said. The test results suggested Dwyer, a deputy of 23 years who has since been fired, used cocaine 48 to 72 hours before the shooting, Zappala said.

Dwyer’s attorney, James Wymard, said his client acknowledged using cocaine three or four days earlier. Wymard also noted that Dwyer wasn’t alone in shooting Sapp.

“So this isn’t like a situation where he was the only one there and he was the only witness to what took place,” the attorney said.

Zappala found the shooting justified because Sapp confronted the officers with what looked like a real pistol.

“He had both hands on the weapon, which he held away from his body,” the prosecutor said.

Sapp was coming down some stairs when Dwyer, two marshals and a state trooper fired from a room below. Ballistics tests show Sapp was hit by three shots from pistols carried by the marshals, including one that pierced his heart. Two shots Dwyer fired hit Sapp in the thigh and lower torso.

Zappala considered charging Dwyer with voluntary manslaughter and other charges, but said the deputy’s actions weren’t criminally reckless because a more detailed urine test confirmed Dwyer wasn’t under the influence of cocaine and because Dwyer reacted the same as the other officers, who all believed Sapp’s gun was real.

Zappala said the officers’ descriptions of what happened were uniform and suggested, among other possibilities, Sapp may have committed “suicide by cop.” If convicted, Sapp would have faced 30 to 60 years in prison.

Wymard said Dwyer will try to get his job back. If reinstated, he will be on probation and subject to random drug testing, the attorney said.

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