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WILKES BARRE, PA— A jury has found that PA State Troopers did not use excessive force when they shot and killed 21-year-old Derek DeGroat in 2015, and that DeGroat’s family is not entitled to the damages they sought.
Four years ago, police responded to a 911 call and confronted DeGroat at his mother’s home in Canaan Twp. DeGroat was armed with three rifles, a hatchet and machete.
After he refused to drop his weapons, police fired at DeGroat 39 times, striking him 11 times.
Wayne County coroner Edward Howell ruled the death a homicide, which is defined as an act that results in the taking of another’s life. However, Howell noted in his report that the phrase “suicide by cop,” in which a person purposefully provokes a lethal response from police, “may be a phrase ascribed to this most unfortunate case.”
Following an investigation, then District Attorney Janine Edwards called the shooting justified.
Since Edwards’s ruling, DeGroat’s family has been outspoken in their contention that police officers must change their protocol when confronting potentially suicidal people. Specifically, the family believes a law should be put into place that would require a suicide prevention counselor to be dispatched with law enforcement when responding to mental health crises.
The family was seeking $18.7 million in damages in this recently decided civil suit, but the jury ruled on the side of police.