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Bucks DA: New Hope Police Shooting Was 'Justified'

The Bucks County District Attorney on Friday issued a statement on the shooting by police of an armed, mentally ill man on Sept. 29.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said Friday that the shooting of an armed, mentally ill man by New Hope police on Saturday, Sept. 29, was justified.

The decision came after an investigation of the incident by the Bucks County detectives, Heckler said.

Their investigation concluded that the officers who shot at Steven Cabelus were acting in self defense. Cabelus, 46, is in stable condition and being treated for the gunshot wound.

"Unquestionably, Sgt. John Gross and Officer Ken Kozuhowski were both entirely justified in using deadly force to protect themselves from the imminent threat of deadly force presented by Steven Cabelus," Heckler wrote in a letter released Friday.

The letter to New Hope Borough Police Chief Michael Cummings spells out what investigators determined happened in the hours that led up to the shooting at the Studio Inn at 131 N. Main St.

Cabelus, who had been living in Unit 8 of the inn, suffers from bipolar disorder and recently had been refusing to take his medication, investigators said.

On September 20, Cabelus bought a Smith & Wesson .357 handgun and a Thompson Encore 45-70 rifle at Tanner's Sport Center, the police said. On Friday, Sept. 28, his friend and next-door neighbor at the inn saw Cabelus loading and unloading the guns as he talked about killing his friends and family members.

The next day, Cabelus dragged that neighbor from Unit 7 and threatened to shoot him, investigators said. The neighbor, Robert Jernigan, told police that Cabelus also had attacked him with a knife and fork, The New Hope Free Press reported.

Worried about what his friend might do, the neighbor went to Doylestown Hospital with a police officer to request a 302, or involuntary psychiatric commitment order.

Based on the belief that Cabelus might hurt himself or others, the order was granted.

Four New Hope police officers went to the Studio Inn shortly before 8 p.m. on that Saturday, Sept. 29, and knocked on the door of Unit 8.

When Cabelus stepped out onto the walkway, he had the .357 in his hand, pointed at the officers directly in front of him, Heckler said.

He aimed the gun, at short range, at Sgt. Gross, then at Officer Kozuhowski. The officers shouted for him to drop his gun.

Instead, they said, Cabelus starting moving closer toward them.

The officers fired at Cabelus. At least one bullet struck the man in the stomach, propelling him backward into the room.

Cabelus was taken by ambulance for medical treatment. He is in stable condition at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, recovering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen, according to information from Heckler's office.

The investigation concluded that the officers had done everything right when they were confronted with threatening behavior.

"They allowed Cabelus the opportunity to drop his weapon and comply with police demands, but he refused and took actions which led them to believe he was about to fire," Heckler said of the officers, concluding that their shooting of Cabelus "was entirely lawful and justified."

 

To read the full letter from District Attorney Heckler to Chief Cummings, click on the PDF file attached to this story.

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