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Police arrest suspect in fatal shooting of Pennsylvania police officer

iStock/Thinkstock
iStock/Thinkstock

(NEW YORK) — After five days, one of the most wanted men in Pennsylvania was finally arrested in Hazelwood.

Rahmael Sal Holt, 29, is in custody and facing murder charges for allegedly fatally shooting rookie New Kensington Police Officer Brian Shaw during a traffic stop inside the parking lot of the Assemblies of God Church.

Authorities said Tavon Jamere Harper was behind the wheel of the SUV that blew a stop sign and that’s when Shaw, 25, allegedly attempted to pull over him and his passenger Holt on Leishman Avenue.

The Pennsylvania State Police announced the arrest of Holt Tuesday morning after offering a reward of up to $55,000 for information leading to his apprehension.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, Shaw was able to relay to dispatch the Pennsylvania registration of the SUV he was detaining.

Instantly, “shots had been fired” the document states and Shaw pursued Holt by foot.

Harper, according to the affidavit, drove away.

The police officer encountered an alley between Leishman and Victoria Avenues and based on surveillance footage, the document states, “[i] shows the actor discharge a firearm striking the officer.”

On Tuesday, Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said that “several shots were fired at Officer Shaw that evening … We estimate at least six shots were fired.”

The police officer with only six months on the force was unable to draw his own weapon and fire back, the prosecutor confirmed.

“It doesn’t appear he returned fire,” he said.

A day following Shaw’s fatal shooting, police, according to the affidavit of probable cause, found “two bundles of stamp bags of suspected heroin” in the second floor bedroom where Harper lived.

They also found $2,500 in cash.

When questioned, according to the affidavit, Harper told cops he “delivered a quantity of marijuana to Rahmael Holt in the City of Arnold.”

Holt faces charges of murder of a police officer.

His mother, Sherry Holt, told a local news outlet Monday that her son wished to turn himself in, but he wanted to ensure his that his surrender would be a peaceful one.

She along with other family members that include a cousin and a cousin’s girlfriend were also arrested Tuesday from hiding Holt from facing justice. “These individuals were not cooperating or hinderin the arrest and that led to the arrest of some individuals,” Peck said.

It appears Holt’s capture was credited in large part to various informants offering tips.

“We had information from informants,” Peck said. “That information, pieced together with other capabilities that agencies have — they were able to locate Mr. Holt at that home.”

The investigators were also seeking a warrant to be able to locate the possible murder weapon that killed Shaw.

The emotions were visible on the prosecutor’s face who called the killing “one of the most violent and senseless actions.”

Holding back tears was New Kensington Police Chief Jim Klein who said that he and his fellow police department “will be able to start to grieve.” He said that grief counselors were coming to help the staff heal and that afterward the police will be back in full force.

“Our officers are dedicated to providing the best possible service to protect you and keep you safe,” he said. “There is no better example than Brian Shaw who gave his life serving the community. I promise you our officers will continue to serve with the same honor that Brian did.”

Shaw, a native of Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, graduated from Burrell High School in 2010 and went on to graduate from Slippery Rock University with a degree in criminal justice, according to his obituary.

After graduating from Allegheny County Police Academy, Shaw became a part-time police officer with several departments.

“Officer Brian Shaw, you were taken from us too soon. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Your life mattered and you will be missed,” the Allegheny Police Department wrote on its Facebook page.

Shaw’s funeral mass is set to be held at Mount Saint Peter Roman Catholic Church in New Kensington.

Officers from surrounding towns and municipalities had been helping with the manhunt, which spanned five days, in order to let town’s police department grieve Shaw, New Kensington Mayor Tom Guzzo said.

“The outpouring of support from the officers from all over western Pennsylvania has been extraordinary,” Guzzo told local reporters. “We could not be doing this without them.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misidentified police officer Brian Shaw’s affiliation and misstated the name of the shooting suspect’s mother.

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