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Fatal Shooting by Bristol Township Police Was Justified, D.A. Finds

March 23, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Matthew D. Weintraub, 215.348.6344, mdweintraub@buckscounty.org 
    

District Attorney Matthew D. Weintraub today announced that the fatal shooting of a hatchet-wielding criminal suspect on March 2 by Bristol Township police officers was justified.

In a letter to Bristol Township Police Chief Robert Coulton, Weintraub wrote, “I have concluded that Officers Patrick Kitchenman and David Wiser of your department were fully justified in discharging their weapons resulting in the death of subject Jose Gomez-Burgos.”

Gomez-Burgos, 29, of Bronx, N.Y., was fatally shot at 12:18 p.m. in a confrontation with police on Edgely Road near Runway Road in Bristol Township.

He was taken to Jefferson Torresdale Hospital, where he was pronounced dead after attempts to save his life. An autopsy showed Gomez-Burgos had been shot three times, and died of blood loss from a torn aorta.

Whenever deadly force is used by law enforcement officers in Bucks County, it is standard procedure for the District Attorney to investigate to determine whether the use of deadly force was justified. Weintraub assigned the Bucks County Detectives to investigate immediately after the shooting occurred, and relied on their findings and other evidence in reaching his conclusions.

At the time of the encounter with Bristol Township police, Weintraub wrote, Gomez-Burgos was wanted by New York City police “for a brutal stabbing of the mother of his children” that had occurred earlier in the day.

After fleeing the scene of the stabbing, the letter said, Gomez-Burgos “called 911 and admitted that he stabbed his victim. After he committed these offenses, the subject told his family members that he wanted to die. They then reported this to police.”

In determining whether the officers’ use of deadly force was justified, Weintraub said two videos recorded by cameras on police vehicles were “most helpful.”

Among other things, Weintraub wrote, the videos showed Gomez-Burgos emerging from his vehicle with a hatchet “upraised in his right hand as he strode purposefully and quickly toward Ofc. Wiser. I heard at least one officer tell the subject to stop and drop the weapon as he got to within 5-8 feet of Ofc. Wiser, when [Wiser] and Ofc. Kitchenman shot at him. Interviews of the officers as well as of independent witnesses corroborate these two videos, and also aided me in my conclusions.”

Officer Wiser was the first of at least four Bristol Township officers to come into contact with Gomez-Burgos as he sat inside the parked, stolen car, which had considerable front-end damage, along Edgeley Road.

When Wiser called in the vehicle’s license plate, he learned that the occupant was wanted for the earlier stabbing in New York. With Kitchenman and two other officers backing him up, Wiser ordered Gomez-Burgos from the vehicle, Weintraub wrote, at which time the suspect moved toward Wiser with the raised hatchet.

“Unquestionably, the defendant disregarded lawful commands from Ofc. Wiser and other officers to stop and to drop his weapons,” Weintraub wrote. “The subject clearly placed Ofc. Wiser in apparent danger of death or serious bodily injury,” creating “a situation in which it was inevitable that the officers would open fire at him both in self-defense and in defense of their fellow officers.”

After Gomez-Burgos fell to the ground, Weintraub noted, the officers discovered he also had a knife hidden in his left hand.

“For the foregoing reasons I am entirely satisfied that both Officers Kitchenman and Wiser were justified in shooting Jose Gomez-Burgos,” Weintraub’s letter concluded. “Since neither officer is culpable in this matter, our investigation is accordingly closed.”

 

Office of the District Attorney
Bucks County Justice Center
100 N. Main Street
Doylestown, PA 18901 
Phone: 215-348-6344 
Fax: 215-348-6299

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