West Nanticoke, PA — The friends and family of a homeless father are now mourning his death after he was reportedly shot and killed by a local game warden. Although the man had a history of run-ins with the law, his family claims he was not violent.
Sean Bohinski, 37, was melting scrap copper down into bars when he was approached by a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officer who was patrolling nearby waters. Friends say Bohinski retrieved binoculars because he believed a boat had capsized in the river and he wanted to see it. Shortly after heading back to the river, he was gunned down by the wildlife officer.
Bohinski was homeless, living in the woods behind a relative's house, and earning a subsistence living by recycling copper. He would melt copper wires down into ingot and sell the scrap metal for cash. He was no stranger to law enforcement, though, having a history of running from police—something his family admits he did every chance he was encountered by the law.
Most likely, he ran because he had warrants for not paying child support for some of his eight children with several women. But they insist he was not a violent man and had never attempted to strike a law enforcement officer.
That all changed on Tuesday when PA Fish and Boat Commission officer, Aaron Lupacchini, approached Bohinski on the riverbanks where he was melting copper wire. The District Attorney's office, which is investigating the shooting, says a fight broke out between Lupacchini and Bohinski. They claim the homeless man beat the officer with a rock and attempted to drown him. Assistant DA Sam Sanguedolce told reporters:
"For some reason, a fight ensued with that male. The officer was struck repeatedly, and so far the evidence tends to indicate that there may have been an attempt to drown that officer. The officer discharged his weapon. He struck the individual who is now deceased."
Mike Grabinski, Bohinski's brother, said he was fairly certain his brother was trying to get away. "I can bet my life my brother tried to run. He’s been put in that situation before and he ran from them. He just didn’t want to go to jail," he said.
Heidi Grabko, Bohinski's girlfriend, and mother of two of his children, told The Free Thought Project that he was afraid of going back to jail. He spent time in jail for failing to pay back child support to the mothers of his other children.
Grabko told WNEP News 16 that Bohinski "was a great father" who would never attempt to kill a police officer. She does not believe the officer's side of the story.
"He just was burning wire down here, which he always did," Grabko said. "He actually picked up garbage and cleaned up around here and did good around here, not bad. He never got into fights. He would never hurt anybody. He would never do that."
Grabko also said Bohinski was a pacifist by nature who would give the shirt off of his back to a stranger. He would never hurt anybody. "He never would even kill a spider in our house. It just hurts a lot," she said.
Bohinski's best friend, Jack Faux, also does not believe the officer is telling the truth about what happened. Faux called Lupacchini a liar and a coward in a Facebook post:
"You scumbag hope something happens to you for what you did you killed a man with a family and lied about how it happened you piece of shit hope you can't sleep at night cause a decent man wouldn't be able to after killing a man for no reason rot in hell you stupid little f—boy."
In an earlier Facebook post, Faux claims Bohinski was nowhere near the water and was actually killed at a distance—not from up close, as the official police narrative implies. Faux said he believes the officer actually shot Bohinski at a distance of 50 yards.
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"1 of my (best friend's) brother in-law was killed today by a game commission guy shot him at 50 yards away and he said he tried to drown him he wasn't even by the water f— scumbag cowered piece of shit he was a good dude."
The only witness to the shooting death was a neighbor who said she heard two shots fired and then saw Officer Lupacchini emerge from the woods bleeding from his head. Grabko told TFTP her boyfriend was shot in the chest and the arm, although the official autopsy has not yet been published.
Predictably, the press has published several articles detailing Bohinski's history with police, which does not describe him as a particularly violent man, just one who does not like to be in jail. He once escaped from prison and was charged with a felony for escaping. All in all, his record appears to portray the homeless man as someone who feared the system of justice to which he was subjected. However, he did have warrants for his arrest for failing to pay child support. Family and friends say at one point the system was taking 75 percent of his weekly earnings when he had a job to pay for his many children.
Somewhere along the way, Bohinski figured out a way to get by, live on his own in the woods, and earning a subsistence living in the process, so long as he did not get caught by police.
When the law did catch up to him, he paid for it with his life. Bohinski is now one of around 1,200 individuals who are killed by police each year. It is likely the truth about what happened along that waterway will never be fully known, as it is now one police officer's word against the word of a dead man. Officer Lupacchini is said to be in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
Faux says he went to the riverside to see for himself, as it is only shouting distance from his home. "He was nowhere near water at all," he said, refuting the officer's contention that Bohinski was trying to kill him by drowning.
Faux said what likely happened was that Bohinski took off running, the officer fell and hit his head, and then started shooting at him after getting mad.
"Whenever he seen the law, he did run from them, but it was over support (child support). They're trying to say he was a bad man and he was wanted but he don't fight with them. Who in their right mind would swing at a cop over support? It's impossible."
Faux says the notion that Bohinski would hit a police officer with a rock or try to drown him is "all bullshit."
"I didn't need to be there to know the whole story that cop (Aaron Lupacchini) is telling is bullshit. I've known this kid my whole life. He comes by my house two to three times a day. I know him better than anybody," Faux said, insisting that Bohinski actually died 30 or 40 yards from the shore, which is why he knows the officer's story is not adding up.
It remains to be seen whether Lupacchini was wearing a Body Camera at the time of the incident, and if so, whether that footage will be released.
TFTP reached out to Eric Levis, Press Secretary for PA's Fish and Boat Commission with a number of questions. We are awaiting his response and will keep you updated as we know more. In a statement by the acting District Attorney for Luzerne County, Stefanie J. Salvantis said the shooting was justified.
In the statement, she described the officer's version of events saying Bohinski was unarmed but was using river rocks to attack Lupacchini. She said the officer elected to fire three rounds into Bohinski at close range after the encounter left him, "bleeding excessively, dizzy, and exhausted." The statement does not describe whether or not he was shot in the front or in the back.
The family maintains he was fleeing when he was killed and that he would never strike an officer. They also said in statements on social media that eyewitnesses on the scene said the officer was not wet, as earlier reports indicated the man attempted to drown him.
Also, we were approached by a Luzerne county fisherman who said he filed an incident report about the game warden in question and said he was so troubled by the officer's actions that he also wrote a letter to his representatives but he would not go into any details as to what made his encounter with Lupacchini so disturbing. He says he fears retaliation by the Fish and Boating Commission.