A district judge on Wednesday allowed charges to proceed against a South Park Township man who allegedly tried to elude and then fought a Monongahela police officer before the officer shot him last month.
District Judge Michael Thatcher ordered counts of aggravated assault, resisting arrest and disarming a police officer filed by Allegheny County police against Joshua D. Burton, 29, held for trial in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas following a preliminary hearing. The charges stem from events early on Aug. 3.
Thatcher heard testimony by Monongahela Officer Zachary Burger – whose name hadn’t been previously released as part of the case – who testified about the events that ensued after one of his colleagues received a tip about a drug sale in a Finleyville bar and ended with the shooting following a scuffle in a grassy area off of Edgewood Street.
A gold Kia had led police on a chase there. Burger said a colleague of his had received a tip from an informant that a man named “J.D.” was selling cocaine at Bob’s Tavern a little before 3 a.m. Both officers started driving to the tavern in respective cars, but learned on the way that J.D. had left in a gold Kia whose headlights were off.
Burger said the driver wouldn’t stop when he pursued the car following a fruitless attempt to pull it over on Route 88.
“It came to a stop whenever it spun out in the roadway and almost struck my vehicle head-on,” Burger said of the chase that reached at least 60 miles an hour as the car led police through a series of turns to wind up on Edgewood Street.
The car hit a parked car, forcing it into another, and a house before a man – whom he identified as Burton – allegedly got out of the rear passenger-side door and started running, ignoring Burger’s exhortation to halt and show his hands.
Burger, who was called to the stand by Assistant District Attorney Chase Stelzer, described the scuffle that followed Burton’s attempt at running away, saying Burton got up and kept running after Burger tackled him.
Burger said he used his Taser on Burton, but they still wound up in a sort of wrestling match in the dark before Burton, who’s taller and heavier, managed to get on top of him and allegedly tried to grab his gun.
Burger said he hit Burton in the face and managed to put some distance between them before he shot Burton as Burton allegedly continued advancing toward him and ignored commands to stop. Burger shot him in the stomach.
Assistant Public Defender Julia Zebley, who represented Burton, asked for a dismissal of the resisting arrest charge, but Thatcher declined to grant one. She said Burger’s testimony showed only that police were trying to detain her client but he wasn’t under arrest until the end of the series of events.
Court papers say Burger had abrasions and lacerations on his head, forearms and hands.
Burton spent almost a week at UPMC-Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh and faces charges stemming from threats he allegedly made against police while there.
He’s been denied bond in that case and is being held in the Allegheny County jail.
Burton was taken to the same hospital on July 10 following an incident when he told South Park police his girlfriend, Taleisha Turner, had allegedly stabbed him in the lower right side of his torso.
During a separate hearing also on Wednesday, Thatcher held charges against Turner, who’s 27, for trial.