PA: Drunk Man Shoots Police Officer, Found Not Guilty by Reason of Self Defense

Darrel Burt PA 2016

On August 30, 2015, Darrel Burt shot a police officer. On September 2nd, 2016, he was found not guilty by reason of self defense. He was wounded in the elbow during the incident and has been held in jail for over a year. From delcotimes.com:

A Norwood man who claimed self-defense in shooting Ridley Park Police Cpl. Marc Hanly last year was found not guilty Friday of nearly all charges.

Darrel Burt, 37, was found guilty of recklessly endangering a civilian, Corey Clark, but was acquitted on a dozen other counts that included attempted murder of police officers, attempted voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and assaulting a police officer by discharging a firearm.

Now that Burt has been found not guilty of all but one charge — reckless endangerment — his attorney will be asking for a bail reduction.

Reckless endangerment is a misdemeanor of the second degree in Pennsylvania, but the penalty can be as high as two years imprisonment. Burt has already been held in jail for a year. I would expect him to get credit for time served.

I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on the Internet. The federal definition of a felony is a crime with a penalty of imprisonment for more than one year.

I sympathize with Burt, who is a veteran and served honorably with two tours in Iraq. Burt he apparently has a serious drinking problem and was drunk when he shot the officer.

The officers were there because Burt had called his friend and told him that he was contemplating suicide. The officers were trying to help. One witness told the jury that when Burt was incarcerated, it was the first time Burt had been sober in 10 years.

The officers made the mistake of not announcing themselves as police. None of the officers who were at the scene remembered having done so. Burt was fired upon first, with a Taser. Burt did not know it was a police officer or that it was a Taser being fired.

Many have said that citizens can never shoot at a police officer and expect justice, even if they were legally justified. There have been several cases in the last few years that show this is false. Darrel Burt’s case adds to the list.

In 2007, in a SWAT raid of the wrong address, Vang Khang shot at police officers as they broke into his family’s home. The police eventually settled the case for over $600,000.  No one was hit. Adrian Perryman was found not guilty of shooting at police in another failed SWAT raid that ocurred in 2010. Brandon Watson was found not guilty after shooting out a window when police officers lit him up with laser sights in January, 2013. Hank McGee was not indicted for the fatal shooting of a deputy in a no knock raid in late 2013. Dallas Horton was not even arrested for shooting the Police Chief in Sentinel, Oklahoma, in 2015.

Fortunately, these cases are rare. They should become even less frequent as the digital recording revolution reaches saturation, where nearly all public events are recorded all the time.

This case did not depend on a recording. That’s a positive sign. For those who say a black man cannot receive justice in the United States, this case is a vivid counterpoint.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
Gun Watch

comments

  1. avatar James in AZ says:

    I’m just curious how none of the cops “remembers” identifying themselves.

    Them not being creative with the paperwork restores my faith in humanity a bit.

    1. avatar Chris. says:

      Yes especially since memory is very faulty anyways – they could “remember”, be wrong & not be “Lying”.

    2. avatar Rusty Chains says:

      Sad when not lying deserves a pat on the back.

    3. avatar Nativeson says:

      The story says that Burt was unable to recognize that he was shot by a taser or that an officer shot it. That statement leaves me to wonder why. Were the officers not in uniform? Was Burt unable to see them when the taser was used? Or was he just so stinking drunk that he couldn’t see straight? While I’m sympathetic to his plight as veteran and respect his service, I also think it’s wrong for him or anyone else to use their voluntary intoxication as defense…if that’s what the defense was in this case.

      1. avatar Art out West says:

        None of us were present in the courtroom. We have not heard all the evidence that the jury did. From what we have heard however, the man did not use his intoxication (or his veteran status) as his defense. Rather, it was the fact that he was acting out of a reasonable fear for his life (self defense).

        The officers admitted that they did not identify themselves as police officers. Apparently they broke into his house, and shot him with a taser. Under such circumstances, it is reasonable for a person to act to defend their life.

        It was a sad, and messed up situation. Yes, he has an alcohol problem, and yes, it appears that the police made mistakes. But, the Jury found that he was not guilty of trying to murder the police.

        That was the conclusion of the court.

      2. avatar Mickey says:

        The reason why officers in all of the jurisdictions I work with are trained to yell “taser” several times before shooting a taser is due to the loud pop made by the discharge of a taser. Officers, with drawn firearms have, in the past, reacted to the noise as though it was a gunshot, and subsequently discharged their own firearms. I have no problem believing that a civilian, under similar circumstances, came to the same conclusion about the loud pop.

        1. avatar Yawnz says:

          An ex-military civilian at that.

        2. avatar Hannibal says:

          At the same time when you have a mentally disturbed drunk guy armed with a gun, yelling “TASER!” might be an invitation to be shot.

          In this case perhaps they should have let him shoot himself if that was what he was going to do rather than go in and turning it into a confrontation.

  2. avatar tiger says:

    Perry Mason must have moved to Delaware county? Quite the win.

    1. avatar NineShooter says:

      That’s kind of what I was thinking; “I need to get the number of this guy’s lawyer.”

  3. avatar Rusty Chains says:

    Dean, sorry to disagree with you buddy, but I see digital recording as bringing more acquittals and dismissal of charges. I am just sorry Kathrine Johnson didn’t manage to connect with the shots she fired at the Atlanta SWAT team. No knock raids are dangerous and the should remain so, frankly they should be outlawed. SWAT teams generally should be disbanded as they are either completely ineffective like in Orlando, or dangerously overused.

    1. I am not sure we disagree. I meant that more digital recording will result in police being more careful, thus reducing the number of cases. There could be an intermediate stage where there are more cases and more acquittals. A generally transparent environment,and the Second Amendment, should result in reduced crime rates, and I expect that it will.

      1. avatar Rusty Chains says:

        I see your point, and hope you are right. Having the cameras will help protect cops from some of the spurious charges that they get a lot of as well.

        1. avatar Brian Clark says:

          So far body cameras have increased the shooting of minorities by 3.6% over last year. Officers felt with the video to back up their story they were more likely to use deadly force. Be careful what you wish for.

        2. Interesting numbers claimed. We did not have a good source of police shootings last year. I am curious as to where those numbers originate, and what the methodology is.

        3. avatar David says:

          They did a review after having police body cams for a while to see the impact in my state police (this is Australia). It was found that there was a significant reduction in false complaints, as well as a reduction in the number of incidents, where there was excessive force used. Police officers with body cams were less likely to be assaulted and individuals were more willing to follow police instructions.

          The conclusion was that cameras serve to protect law-abiding people against cops who don’t do the right thing, allow cops to prove that their actions are reasonable protecting them against false complaints (which can be really stressful and aggravating) and encourage both police and people to do the right thing (and most importantly be rewarded for doing the right thing if there is an investigation).

    2. avatar LarryinTX says:

      There should be very specific standards and restrictions for both no-knock raids and *any* raids during the hours of darkness. I’m not certain I GAS about what you are shouting or whether you are knocking before you break through my unlocked door at 3 AM, I’m probably coming out shooting. Midnight surprise no-knock has its place, as in with drugs which can be quickly flushed (just legalize drugs and eliminate the problem), but tends to be used indiscriminately as a technique to terrorize and confuse targets. Could also get you killed!

  4. avatar mk10108 says:

    The salient point is a former military man, habitually drunk for years got two rounds in a cop (leg & chest w bullet vest) while receiving a wound in the elbow. THAT’S TRAINING FOLKS.

    The after action report is former vet finally sobers up, and cop with a leg wound gets full pension for life. I suspect that when they learn black man was a former service member and everyone lived, police failed to remember announcing themselves.

  5. avatar Bob says:

    Wonder if the recent black lives matters movement and hatred toward cops has anything to do with this change of heart?

  6. avatar jwtaylor says:

    Whoa. Great lawyer.

  7. avatar Art out West says:

    Nobody has talked about whether his drinking problem was related to his two tours of duty in Iraq. I bet the two are closely connected.

    We’ve got to stop getting into so many pointless wars.

    1. avatar Yawnz says:

      Define “pointless war”.

      1. avatar Art out West says:

        A pointless war is one that is fought for the financial interests of the corporatist elite, rather than the defense of the homeland. A pointless war is one that isn’t properly “declared by Congress” in accordance with the Constitution. A pointless war is one designed to “spread democracy – or force democracy” on those nations that don’t want it, and can’t handle it once they get it.

        A pointless war is one that you don’t believe is worth fighting, and winning at any cost. A pointless war is one that you jump into half-heartedly, with insane rules of engagement, and one arm tied behind your back.

        Look at Iraq. Thousands of American soldiers died. Tens of thousands of American soldiers were grievously wounded. A trillion dollars were wasted (added to a national debt that we will never be able to pay). Untold thousands of Iraqis died, and a multitude more were grievously wounded.

        At the end of the day, we end up with an Iraq dominated by radicals (ISIS), who murder, rape, torture, and mutilate anyone who disagrees with them. Christianity has been driven out of Iraq, and many Christians have been raped and or murdered. The same holds true for other minorities as well, such as the Yazidi community.

        Iraq is in worse shape today than it was under Saddam, and thousands of lives have been ruined, and both the U.S. and Iraq are poorer because of it.

        Syria is in a similar situation, as is Libya. Afghanistan isn’t much better.

        We should have listened to George Washington when he warned us about foreign entanglements.

        1. avatar Sam I Am says:

          The point of war is to kill people and break things. If you accomplish that, the war made its point.

        2. avatar former water walker says:

          I couldn’t agree more Art. And the big brains didn’t understand Saddam was a check/buffer to Iran-as well as not persecuting Christians or the few Jews left in Iraq. But the word of God has to be fulfilled… just glad my son didn’t die in the middle East.

        3. I think the original plan was to take out Iran, or at least change the regime, next. We had plenty of reason to do so, as they supplied a great deal of IEDs, material, and expertise to the forces opposing us in Iraq. But the Media cartel demonized President Bush so much, and was perfectly willing to lose the war to prevent him from winning it, that he could not strike back at the Iranians.

          It was our media that nearly lost the war in Iraq for us; and President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finished the job when they were elected.

        4. avatar Victor Vector says:

          Dean, it is further interesting to note that the Obama foreign policy idiots were all too quick to jump on board any “Arab Spring” movement, as long as it was counter to the interests of the United States. The one “Arab Spring” event that mattered (and never mind that they’re Persians, not Arabs) was the Iranian student uprising. Instead of offering tacit encouragement for the students, Obama and Clinton praised the mullahs.

          Compare and contrast with overthrowing our allies in Egypt, a compliant Libya, and secular, pluralistic Syria (a clear lesser evil to the Islamists overthrowing it.)

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      Why do you think his alcoholism has anything to do with his service?

      1. avatar Art out West says:

        I don’t know the particular details of this man’s life, but I do think that there MAY be a connection. One indication is the timing. They said that he’d had serious alcohol problems for approximately 10 years. That takes us back to 2006, and it was mentioned that he had served 2 tours in Iraq. The timing seems about right.

        Again, this really is speculation on my part, and I realize that. Still, the horrors of war have pushed many men to self medicate via alcohol or other drugs.

  8. avatar Dave says:

    As long as he got home safely to his family, that’s all that matters.

    1. avatar K says:

      Lol. I mean, you know, that’s more important than serving the people you’re supposed to defend. And before you all start with the “hey they were just trying to help him” I’m 100% positive that during their warrantless “health” check they were looking for something to arrest him over.

  9. avatar Swarf says:

    Good.

    This case, by the way, is not a “vivid counterpoint”, as though there were thousands of others just like it just waiting to be brought to light yet ignored by those who would instead chose to malign the police.

    This case is an extremely rare anomaly. When the cops paying for their cowboy/operator bullshit is the norm instead of the exception then we can claim some progress on the issue.

    As it stands now, the police in this country are– as a whole– over the line.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I am not sure that’s fair, since I have no idea how often this kind of situation occurs. But we all knew that it DID happen at least occasionally, and I was certainly among those who had never heard of a person (particularly a black man) who both survived and was not found guilty of all manner of made-up shit. I find this report encouraging.

    2. avatar Yawnz says:

      So I take it you have well-researched evidence covering all police officers in the country to support your claim?

  10. avatar Chris says:

    Even a pitcher knocks a home run from time to time.

  11. avatar jwm says:

    I wasn’t there. Were the cops in uniform or some form of operator garb? Cops should be in uniforms and loudly plastered with badges and patches.

    Why assault a man threatening suicide? If he’s contained and not a threat to others wait him out. He’ll either do the suicide(which is his choice and nobody has the right to interfere so long as he’s not a threat to others) or he’ll calm down and the situation will be defused.

    Swat should only be used to curb stomp gangs and any low life’s that threaten decent folk who have had to defend themselves from low life’s.

    In fact, if you’re joe honest citizen and you prevail against a gang banger in a dgu it should be mandatory SOP for cop shops to immediately start round up any known gang members from the deceased gang and curb stomp them just cause.

  12. avatar More Dead Soldiers says:

    “For those who say a black man cannot receive justice in the United States, this case is a vivid counterpoint”

    Tell that to Cory Maye, who spent a decade on death row for defending himself against government home invaders. The government tried its hardest to kill him twice.

    At the end he was saved by volunteer defense attorneys from the Innocence Project while the state still refuses to admit any wrongdoing. Justice in the United States.

  13. avatar Sam I Am says:

    “For those who say a black man cannot receive justice in the United States, this case is a vivid counterpoint.”

    A year in jail for not doing crimes? A lingering charge of reckless endangerment? To whom? How were the “victims” endangered if all the other charges were not proved?

    Not “justice” at all. Cops didn’t announce, and started all the events. Still, they got their revenge for being “endangered” by a man who committed no crime.

    “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.
    -B. Dylan

    1. avatar Ing says:

      That’s what I was thinking. This guy just spent a YEAR in jail and is still facing a felony record for basically not doing anything wrong.

      1. avatar dph says:

        My take is he spent a year in jail so they’re going to charge him with anything they can to justify that time and then let him go with time served. What a lucky guy. Sarcasm meter now pegged.

    2. The reckless endangerment charge seems legitimate, and the jury agreed. The whole situation was not set up by the police, but by him and his friend. Maybe his suicide talk was a plea for help. Maybe his considerable reluctance to open the door was because he was drunk. But it wasn’t the police that set up the situation with them at the door worried about a suicidal vet.

      Maybe his friend should have shared in the reckless endangerment charge, but he was part of it.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        The cops all agreed they did not announce who they were. You get a bunch (or two, or three) of unknown people banging on your door, then pointing what could be a gun at you, don’t expect not to be “endangered” for your actions.

        If self-defense is considered “endangerment” anywhere, it is “endangerment” everywhere; very bad precedent.

    3. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      How does “guilty of reckless endangerment” equate to “not doing crimes”, in your view? GUILTY.

      Now, I see you challenge the recklessness charge, in light of the acquittals. Well, you can be entirely justified in acting in self-defense, but go about it recklessly. Suppose you’re carjacked in a crowded parking lot. You’re entitled (in Texas) to fire on someone fleeing with stolen property. In the abstract, anyway. In the specific scenario of a crowded parking lot, it’s so likely that your bullets will hit bystanders that such conduct would be deemed reckless. See?

      Now, as for the year in jail, that was because he didn’t make bail. Bail is set at a level, or denied outright, to ensure that the accused will show up for trial. It also reflects the danger the defendant poses to the community (witness tampering, evidence destruction, other crimes).

      A ten year long drunken binge, while armed and suicidal, culminating in a shootout with police, sounds like a danger to the community to me. No bail for you!

      This is not the poster boy for judicial abuse you’re looking for.

      1. avatar Ing says:

        The only person he recklessly endangered was himself. (See JWM’s comment above.) He wasn’t threatening to kill either his friend or the police (who didn’t even really have to be there). The police did something that put him in reasonable fear for his life, and he did what he has an absolute right to do.

      2. avatar Sam I Am says:

        Last first: Bail is usually set to ensure people cannot get post the bond, especially people of little means. It is a form of punishment. But even if it is designed to ensure one shows at trial, waiting a year in bondage for your “day in court” is atrocious.

        Next, “endangerment” in the parking lot: Not at all similar, and shooting a fleeing suspect is not self-defense in the common understanding….there is no imminent threat to a person fleeing; too many shootings fail on this ground.

        Next, “endangerment” in self-defense in your house: If the incident requires defending yourself from attack, how does one go about being reckless? Shooting in all directions simultaneously? Suppressive fire? Shutting eyes, then blasting away? Shooting at someone who yells “Police” while holding a badge in front of your nose? Shooting out the front door at the neighborhood generally? Shooting directly at the persons who appear armed and intent on harming you?

        If the “not guilty” findings absolved the man of trying and succeeding in doing harm without justification, then how does a guilty verdict on “endangerment” stand. How in the world does one conduct self-defense without endangering the attacker(s)?

  14. avatar John in CT says:

    This is the second time I’ve heard of something like this happening. A few years ago, cops decided to rid some guy’s house in the middle of the night at some guy’s house, scaring the hell out of him, and causing him to defend himself. He, too, was ruled not guilty by reason of self-defense as I recall.

    1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      This drunk called a friend and told him he was comtemplating suicide. At which point, the friend contacted the police, who did their job and responded.

      How is that like the police just deciding to raid someone’s house?

  15. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    Wait, so he was not just minding his own business, sitting on his front porch, quietly reading a good book and perhaps sipping some masala chai, when a squad of city-employed assassins descended upon him in attack? Huh.

    It’s starting to look like a number of these jackwagons put themselves in these situations and brought whatever consequences, legal or not, but definitely foreseeable, upon themselves. Curious, that.

  16. avatar SeeMore says:

    Nice.

    IMO, no knock search warrants and SWAT are both unconstitutional, I’ll shoot every time.

  17. avatar James69 says:

    We’ll never get “the rest of the story” on this one. Maybe he’s on the wagon for good. I hope so.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      If nothing else comes of this I too hope he gets sober and puts his life in order.

  18. avatar Hannibal says:

    I’m sure the police were trying to save him by using a less-lethal weapon to surprise and incapacitate him. Unfortunately, Tasers are not phasers and don’t always work. So maybe next time think about what happens if the Taser fails.

  19. avatar Jimmy B says:

    Might have been best to secure the area and take a wait and see approach since no one was under direct threat of harm until approached. A few hours sobering up may have brought it to a peaceful conclusion. But the only people who know for sure, were on scene. Just .02 and nothing more.

  20. avatar Ace says:

    I can assure you he is sober now and truly happy. He is doing a lot better now.

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