Prosecutors say they would take at least a week before they determine whether to charge a Hatboro councilman who chased and shot a suspected bank robber, but a legal expert says state law might be on the councilman's side.
Kevin Steele, the Montgomery County first assistant district attorney, said officials have interviewed George Forgeng, who shot an alleged robber in an arm and hand Tuesday. The victim and other witnesses have provided statements.
Now, Steele said, investigators need time to review the case. "It's a little different than others, based upon the circumstances," Steele said.
The shooting might have been justified under a Pennsylvania law allowing the use of force by private citizens making arrests, said Jules Epstein, a Temple University law professor.
"Assuming this gentleman is telling the truth, then it may be that he is not in the wrong legally," Epstein said.
The law, passed in 1980, states that in a citizen's arrest, force - even deadly force - can be used if "such force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or another."
That would include scenarios such as a witness to a purse-snatching's tackling and holding a suspect until police arrive, Epstein said.
Forgeng, 60, saw a dye pack explode near the TD Bank on York Road. He began following Kevin Way, he told police, because he assumed Way had just robbed the bank.
Forgeng, a Republican councilman with a permit to carry a concealed weapon, got out of his car in a residential neighborhood and followed Way on foot. Police said Forgeng shouted at Way to stop, and asked bystanders to call 911. The chase continued to the parking lot of an industrial complex, where police said Forgeng told Way he had a gun.
Way responded, "Go ahead and shoot me," Forgeng told police, and began walking toward him.
Forgeng shot Way, who is 30, 6-foot-2, and 250 pounds, in a hand and arm. Way was not armed, but Forgeng told investigators he believed Way had a gun because he had just robbed a bank.
Epstein said Forgeng could argue that he acted in self-defense as Way approached him.
Way, of Hatboro, has been released from the hospital and is at the Montgomery County prison. A judge set his bail at $500,000 as he awaits a preliminary hearing set for next week on robbery, theft, and other charges.
Epstein said a thorough investigation is to be expected, and is necessary in any shooting.
"We don't want different standards," he said, such as " 'Oh, you shot a bad guy? That's OK.' "