HARRISBURG — The deputy U.S. Marshal fatally shot while serving a warrant in Harrisburg in January was hit by friendly fire, according to a report on Pennlive.com later confirmed by a report from Dauphin County District Attorney Francis T. Chardo.
Christopher Hill was hit during an exchange of gunfire between law enforcement officers and Kevin Sturgis, who was inside the home on the 1800 block of Mulberry Street where the warrant was served.
Hill was part of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, which was working with law enforcement officers from other agencies to serve an arrest warrant on Sturgis’ girlfriend, Shayla L. Pierce, also known as Shayla Towles.
Law enforcement agents initially said Sturgis opened fire on the officers. That remains true, but the Pennlive report, which cited multiple sources, said Thursday that none of the bullets fired by Sturgis hit Hill. Instead, Hill was struck by a bullet fired by one of the officers who was returning fire.
One of Sturgis’ bullets did hit another law enforcement officer in the elbow, the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
The Dauphin County DA found that the use of deadly force against Sturgis was legally justified.
According to the DA’s report, the U.S. Marshals Task Force was serving the warrant on Pierce for carrying a firearm without a license, terroristic threats, and simple assault by physical menace. After announcing their presence and purpose, entering the house, and taking the suspect into custody, officers began securing the house, the DA report said.
While the team was securing the first floor, Sturgis yelled “are you looking for me?” from the top of the stairs and began firing on task force members as he descended. His first shot struck a task force member in the elbow.
In response, the DA said, another officer returned fire toward Sturgis. One of the bullets passed through the wall and struck Hill, the report said.
The task force members retreated through the rear door and rendered aid to Hill as Sturgis exited through the front door, the DA’s report said. Sturgis continued to fire on deputies, striking one in a ballistic vest. Other task force members returned fire upon Sturgis, eventually ending the threat, the DA said.
According to the DA report, investigation revealed that Sturgis was wanted in connection to the shooting of a pregnant woman in Philadelphia.
“Based on these circumstances, Sturgis is responsible for both his own death and the death of Deputy United States Marshall Christopher Hill,” the DA’s report concluded. “Sturgis maliciously and unnecessarily set in motion the exchange of gunfire that led to both deaths.”
The DA’s report states that task force members performed well under extremely stressful conditions.
“Deputy Marshall Hill died a hero,” the report concludes. “The results of this investigation do not in any way diminish the heroism exhibited by the other members of the team on that day.”
The U.S. Marshals Service issued the following statement to FOX43:
“On January 18, Deputy U.S. Marshal Christopher Hill died in the line of duty in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, while executing an arrest warrant on a female defendant who was wanted by the Harrisburg Bureau of Police for terroristic threat offenses. While executing the warrant, Deputy Hill and his arrest team were fired upon by another subject in the house – a male, convicted felon who was wanted for attempted murder of his pregnant girlfriend. During this tragic incident, Deputy Hill was struck by a round that passed through a wall in the residence. Initial indications suggested that one of the shots fired by the assailant had struck and killed Deputy Hill.
Today, the comprehensive FBI forensics and ballistics review indicates that the round which struck Deputy Hill was fired by a fellow law enforcement officer who was engaged in a gun battle with the assailant. Deputy Hill made the ultimate sacrifice while executing a lawful arrest warrant on a female suspect wanted for terroristic threats. That fact remains. He died a hero while protecting his community from dangerous criminals like the female defendant and the male assailant who opened fire on his team. Those facts remain unchanged too.
The results of the FBI’s review do not diminish the heroic acts of Chris or his team. A convicted felon opened fired on law enforcement officers and ultimately led to Chris’s unfortunate and untimely death. Those are the facts. USMS intends to conduct a thorough review of the official FBI report and determine whether there are any lessons to be learned which may be appropriate to incorporate into training.”