Greensburg, PA — In an extremely rare move, a jury has returned a verdict of not guilty in the trial of a man who killed a St. Clair Township police officer as he responded to a domestic violence call in November of 2015.
After six days of testimony and more than 20 hours of jury deliberations, Ray Shetler Jr. was found not guilty of murder Friday in the fatal shooting of St. Clair Township Police Officer Lloyd Reed, according to Trib Live.
Shelter was facing the death penalty for killing the officer before he was found not guilty of first and third-degree murder.
As Trib Live reports:
Shetler, 33, of New Florence, jumped up and hugged his defense attorney as the verdict was announced. His family members, seated just one row in front of Reed's family, let out an audible gasp.
"You were in the courtroom, you saw him hugging me, thanking me for saving his life," said defense attorney Marc Daffner.
The jury found Shetler guilty of two lesser charges in connection with stealing a truck as he attempted to flee the scene of the shooting in New Florence and swam across the Conemaugh River.
Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio ordered Shetler remain in jail until he is able to post $100,000 bail that continues keeps him in custody for the theft and receiving stolen property convictions.
The judge said Shetler could be sentenced up to seven years in prison.
While there have been a few cases of people being found not guilty of killing police officers, this case stands out for several reasons.
Not only did Shelter fire three rounds at police, but afterward he fled the scene, dumped his clothing and the rifle and evaded police for six hours.
Also, in other cases in which police were killed while raiding homes over marijuana or non-existent drugs, Reed was actually responding to a domestic violence call by Shelter's girlfriend Kristen Luther, who said he was beating her.
According to Trib Live, "Shetler testified on his own behalf as did his girlfriend, Kristen Luther. Both claimed Reed fired first during the shootout. It was Luther's call to 911, saying Shetler had assaulted her that led Reed, who was patrolling neighboring St. Clair Township, to respond to New Florence. Shetler maintained he didn't know Reed was a police officer."
Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck expressed he and the Reed family's disappointment with the verdict but noted that is the system in place.
"We have a jury system in this country and will certainly abide by their verdict," Peck said.
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As The Free Thought Project first reported in 2014, Marvin Guy is facing the death penalty. Guy shot and killed Detective Charles Dinwiddie and injured several other Killeen police officers, as they were attempting to forcefully enter Guy’s home on May 9, 2014, at 5:30 am.
Police had been surveilling Guy’s home for some time after an informant claimed Guy was trafficking a large quantity of cocaine. At some point in the investigation, the decision was made to enter Guy’s home and attempt to find evidence which would corroborate the informant’s claim.
But after entering the residence, in a show of force which resulted in the loss of life of a veteran police officer, no drugs, not even a single marijuana joint was found—a case far different than Shelter's.
The consequence for the police incursion resulted in one detective’s death, and yet another Black man being charged with homicide. Guy's fate is yet to be determined, as he is awaiting trial for Dinwiddie's murder which, arguably, would not have occurred had the police not attempted to enter his home unannounced.
Even if the police had identified themselves before attempting to enter Guy's home, there have been enough crimes committed by criminals posing as police, to justify Guy’s decision to defend his life from intruders. With Guy already being a convicted felon, more questions will likely be raised as to whether or not the Castle doctrine can be extended to convicted felons. The weapon Guy used, a 9mm, had been reported stolen.
Likewise, his possession of the weapon was also another potential felony. But the question remains. Do all Americans have a right to defend themselves? Under current Texas law, convicted felons do not have a right to keep and bear arms for the protection of their persons or dwelling. According to many jailhouse interviews conducted by KDH News, Guy told reporters “he was simply defending himself when his bedroom window was broken out that morning.”
Complicating matters further for the prosecution in Guy’s case is the fact that a precedent has already been set in a similar case. As The Free Thought Project reported, charges against Henry Goedrich Magee were dropped following a TX grand jury's refusal to indict Magee on capital murder charges for the shooting death of Burleson County Sgt. Adam Sowders, after the sergeant led a team of police officers into Magee’s residence using the same “no-knock” search warrant method.
Magee claimed he was protecting his home and his pregnant girlfriend, the exact same claim Guy made upon his arrest.
After the grand jury refused to indict Magee, the case against him was dropped, just a few short months after the shooting occurred, quite a contrast from Guy's imprisonment. Guy has been sitting in jail for two and a half years awaiting his day in court, held under three million dollars bond.
The discrepancies in the way Magee was treated and how Guy's case is being handled hasn't gone unnoticed. A petition to drop all charges against Guy was created on the Change.org website. A portion of the petition reads;
It is always a tragic, unfortunate event when anyone loses their lives, especially in the line of duty. But how can we essentially say that one person was defending themselves and another was committing murder, under such similar circumstances...No drugs were found in Guy's house. Besides, if beyond a reasonable doubt is needed to convict, how can we be certain that Guy knew that the person(s) entering his home, at 5:30 in the morning, were peace officers, something required for the capital murder charge? Guy deserves to be treated fairly and the same as another man who acted in self-defense or what any other reasonable American would do.
For Guy's supporters, possibly, there's new hope that he will soon be set free.