PENN TOWNSHIP, PA - Ciera Meyer was sick and stayed at home from school. She was shot dead after her father pulled a gun on a constable who came calling, police said.
On Monday, Pennsylvania State Constable Clarke Steele was serving an eviction notice to Donald Meyer, 57, in Penn Township when Meyer slid a .223-caliber rifle into view and pointed it at Steele's chest, Pennsylvania State Police said.
"Constable Steele, who was in uniform, quickly removed his .40 caliber duty weapon from its holster and fired a single round striking the suspect in his upper left arm," police said.
The bullet passed through Meyer's arm and struck his 12-year-old daughter, who was standing behind him, in the chest. Family members identified her as Ciera Meyer.
“[Meyer] put the constable in a situation where he had to make a decision to use deadly force, and he did, and now we have this tragedy,” Trooper Rob Hicks of the Pennsylvania State Police told WPMT.
“[Steele] is heartsick and heartbroken over the outcome,” Bill Stoeffler, of the Commonwealth Constables Association and a colleague and friend of Steele, said Tuesday night. “[It’s] every constable's absolute worst nightmare.”
“This is a situation that happened very suddenly and very violently,” Stoeffler said. “He was put in a position from which he couldn't retreat safely. He had no other option really than to do what he did and respond as he did.”
'I burst into tears'
A neighbor heard the shot. When she found out who died, "I burst into tears," she told WHTM. "I can't understand it; it's horrible."
She dreaded telling her young daughter.
"She's not going to handle it very well. It's horrible. How do you tell a little girl that something like this happened? How do you explain that? I'm an adult, and I don't understand it," said the woman, whom WHTM did not name.
Donald Meyer was flown to a hospital for treatment. He has been charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, terroristic threats and recklessly endangering another person.
There is the question of Constable Steele being armed, because some constables are not.
That is ultimately up to the judges who contract with the constables, Stoeffler said, since they determine whether the constable can carry a firearm and go through additional training to do so.
Employees of the apartment complex had accompanied Steele to Meyer's address and witnessed the shooting, police said.
The rifle Meyer carried was loaded, had a bullet in the chamber, and its magazine was filled with 30 rounds.
Pennsylvania constables are not police officers but elected officials. They may be tasked with certain aspects of law enforcement in the duty of the courts, according to the Pennsylvania court system.
Small percentage of shooting deaths deemed accidental
More than 400,000 people in the United States were killed with firearms between 2001 to 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nearly 60% of deaths from gun violence recorded by the CDC were suicides.
The next biggest chunk, some 38%, were homicides -- defined as one person killing another.
The CDC characterizes 2% of all shooting deaths as accidental.