Greensburg man not guilty in shooting at New Kensington police




  • In US
  • 2022-01-27 05:01:00Z
  • By Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.

Jan. 27-A Greensburg man was acquitted Wednesday of the attempted murder and assaults of three New Kensington police officers who were shot at as they rode in an unmarked surveillance van during a search for a suspect in an unrelated criminal case two years ago.

After nearly three hours of deliberations, a Westmoreland County jury found Ezra "Klipz" Grant not guilty of all 11 offenses in connection with the Feb. 4, 2020, shooting. Grant was charged with three counts each of attempted murder, assault against a police officer, aggravated assault and two firearms offenses.

"It's unfortunate he had to wait 18 months for this day," said defense attorney Joseph Otte as he and Grant left the courtroom following the jury's decision. Grant was charged in May 2020 and has been held in jail without bail since his arrest.

Grant, 21, was one of two men charged with firing as many as nine shots that hit the van and shot out its windows as it drove down Kenneth Avenue. One of the bullets struck the back of the driver's seat headrest, prosecutors said.

None of the police officers were injured.

Grant did not testify and the defense called no witnesses during the three-day trial before Common Pleas Court Judge Scott Mears.

"While we are disappointed in the verdict, we respect the jury's decision," Westmoreland County District Attorney Nicole Ziccarelli said in a statement. "Assaults against law enforcement officers in Westmoreland county are taken very seriously and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent by my office."

J'Lamar Washington, 19, is awaiting trial on similar charges. His case is tentatively scheduled to begin next month.

Ziccarelli declined to comment on how Washington's case will be impacted by Grant's not guilty verdict.

Otte argued the prosecution's key witnesses, who identified his younger brother and Grant as the shooters, was likely the lone man who fired a .9 mm semiautomatic pistol at police.

Tywone McClain, 23, of Duquesne testified earlier in the trial that he, Grant and brother J'Lamar Washington, 19, and two other men walked to a friend's home after buying two bottles of Cognac when he spotted police on parole. McClain told jurors he heard the shots fired just after Grant threatened to do so.

Prosecutors said McClain saw both Grant and Washington with guns just prior to the shooting. They said Washington later took both weapons to his sister's home in Duquesne, where police found them the next day.

In his closing argument to the jury, Otte called McClain a professional snitch who lied to police to cover up his own actions and suggested he stood to benefit from his testimony. McClain, who has a lengthy criminal record, has robbery charges and other offenses pending in connection with unrelated incidents.

Otte suggested McClain fired the shots after he identified police in the van because he believed he was the target of their search.

"This is somebody who is not a competent witness and thinks he is running the show," Otte said. "Gee whiz, this guy is really manipulating the system." Prosecutors contend McClain's testimony is corroborated by both physical evidence and a statement Grant made to police in which investigators said he admitted to his role in the shooting.

Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro disputed the defense argument that McClain has a deal with prosecutors in return for his testimony. He also disputed the suggestion that Grant was charged to protect a key witness in other prosecutions.

"This defendant is charged because that is where the evidence led investigators," Ciaramitaro said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, rcholodofsky@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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