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Lancaster police fatally shoot man after domestic disturbance call; unrest erupts in the city

Police shot the man while responding to a domestic disturbance call. A body-cam video showed he was armed with a knife.

File photo of police lights.
File photo of police lights.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

Police in Lancaster fatally shot a 27-year-old man, and officers in Reading critically injured another person in separate shootings Sunday, authorities said. In the hours after the Lancaster shooting, police used pepper spray to disperse protesters, some of whom were later arrested, after they threw bricks through the glass doors of the city police station and the front of a nearby post office, according to news reports.

The Lancaster Bureau of Police said that at about 4:15 p.m., an officer responded to a home on the 300 block of Laurel Street for a report of an in-progress domestic disturbance. A man, who was reportedly armed with a knife, was fatally shot by police. The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, in a Sunday night news release, identified the man killed as Ricardo Munoz. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Sunday night, a crowd that grew to about 400 protesters gathered outside the Lancaster police station calling for justice and shouting “Not one more!” according to LancasterOnline. At first, the protesters were relatively peaceful, a LancasterOnline reporter said during a live broadcast.

But as night turned to morning, the situation became more volatile as police fired what they said was pepper spray into the crowd, according to news reports and a statement from the police department, and protesters then threw bricks into the police department, a post office, and a county vehicle parked on the street.

The police department defended their use of pepper spray in a statement, saying protesters locking arms was blocking an access ramp on the side of the station and the group did not move after several requests by officers. The department also noted the property damage, and the “water bottles, glass bottles, rocks, bricks, gallon jugs of liquids and parts of plastic road barricades” that were thrown at police on the scene.

Lancaster Police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser earlier said that the shooting was captured on an officer’s body camera, and the officer has been placed on administrative leave per the department’s policy, LancasterOnline reported.

“Any loss of life, regardless of how it happened, is devastating,” Berkihiser said, according to LancasterOnline. “It’s devastating for everybody involved. It’s devastating for our police department, the families, and our community."

Late on Sunday night, possibly in response to the protesters outside, police released new details about the incident and also released the officer’s body-cam video. (Warning: The video in this link is graphic.) In a statement, they said that the 9-1-1 caller told a Lancaster County dispatcher that her brother — Munoz — was reportedly becoming aggressive with his mother and was attempting to break into her house.

The video, which is graphic, shows a woman coming out of the house when the responding officer arrives outside. A man is heard shouting inside. The video then shows a man coming out of the house and running toward the officer as the officer runs away. The officer is then heard and seen firing his gun several times toward the man . He lies motionless face down on the sidewalk. Included in the video is a still image of the man with a knife in his hand just before he was shot.

Earlier Sunday night, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said in a tweet: “We have reviewed body cam footage which shows man ran at @LancasterPolice while brandishing a knife above his head. Our investigation is ongoing.”

The body-cam footage showed that when the officer arrived in front of the residence, Munoz immediately emerged from inside and “runs toward the officer, brandishing a knife above his head, in clear view, in a threatening manner,” the DA’s Office said. “The officer then fired. No one else was struck by gunfire.”

“A police-involved shooting has significant impact on a community, as we are seeing with the large number of individuals gathering in the streets,” District Attorney Heather Adams said in the release. “However, I am asking that all reaction be tempered as the investigation is ongoing.”

The District Attorney’s Office asked that acts of protest remain peaceful and said in the release that any violence or destruction of property "will become headlines and serve no purpose for the safety and wellbeing of our citizens and neighborhoods.”

The office investigates all officer-involved shootings in Lancaster County, and Adams will make the final determination on whether force was justified, the release said.

Separately, about 7 a.m. in neighboring Berks County, police officers responding to a 911 call of a person with a gun on the 800 block of Franklin Street in Reading shot and critically wounded the individual, the Berks County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

Authorities did not provide details on the person’s gender or age.

“Numerous commands were made by the uniformed officers to this individual to drop the weapon,” the release said. “The individual refused and continued to point the weapon at officers.”

“As a result, officers fired shots at the individual, who was struck at least one time,” and was rushed to Tower Health’s Reading Hospital in critical condition, the release said.

Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams plans to hold a news conference “in the near future" to discuss his office’s investigation into the shooting, which the office called “an isolated incident” that no longer presents any threat to the community.