WHITEHALL, Pa. (AP) — The owner of a vacant Pennsylvania home that had been burglarized faces charges after police say he apparently suspected someone was breaking into the property again, called 911 and then shot a police officer who responded.
William Sturtevant, 46, said he mistook Whitehall Township police officers for burglars returning to the home, where someone had stolen copper pipes a day earlier, authorities said.
Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said Sturtevant was either sleeping or hiding in the home early Saturday and called 911 when he thought he heard footsteps. Shortly after, two officers entered through an open basement door, but as they approached the staircase leading to the first floor, Sturtevant fired a shot down into the basement, Martin said.
One officer, who has been on the force for nine years, was hit in the leg with birdshot from the shotgun. He remains in stable condition.
"It appears that he mistook the officers for the burglars that he anticipated encountering, but keep in mind that this was an unoccupied house and he used deadly force in an effort to protect property, which you can't do," Martin said, referring to the defendant's actions as those of a "vigilante."
"Mr. Sturtevant is a very lucky man that he's not charged with a criminal homicide," Martin said. Police didn't return fire, officials said.
Sturtevant faces two counts of aggravated assault, assault of a law enforcement officer and reckless endangerment. His attorney didn't immediately return a call Sunday.