Girl, 12, fatally shot by Pennsylvania constable serving eviction notice

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PENN TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Ciera Meyer was sick and stayed at home from school.  She was shot dead after her father pulled a gun on a constable who came calling, police said.

Police say the girl's father pointed a rifle at the constable before he opened fire. (Credit: WHP)

Police say the girl's father pointed a rifle at the constable before he opened fire.

On Monday, Pennsylvania State Constable Clarke Steele was serving an eviction notice to Donald Meyer, 57, in Penn Township when Meyer slid a .223-caliber rifle into view and pointed it at Steele's chest, Pennsylvania State Police said.

"Constable Steele, who was in uniform, quickly removed his .40 caliber duty weapon from its holster and fired a single round striking the suspect in his upper left arm," police said.

The bullet passed through Meyer's arm and struck his 12-year-old daughter, who was standing behind him, in the chest. Family members identified her as Ciera Meyer.

“[Meyer] put the constable in a situation where he had to make a decision to use deadly force, and he did, and now we have this tragedy,” Trooper Rob Hicks of the Pennsylvania State Police told WPMT.

“[Steele] is heartsick and heartbroken over the outcome,” Bill Stoeffler, of the Commonwealth Constables Association and a colleague and friend of Steele, said Tuesday night. “[It’s] every constable's absolute worst nightmare.”

“This is a situation that happened very suddenly and very violently,” Stoeffler said. “He was put in a position from which he couldn't retreat safely. He had no other option really than to do what he did and respond as he did.”

'I burst into tears'

A neighbor heard the shot. When she found out who died, "I burst into tears," she told WHTM. "I can't understand it; it's horrible."

She dreaded telling her young daughter.

"She's not going to handle it very well. It's horrible. How do you tell a little girl that something like this happened? How do you explain that? I'm an adult, and I don't understand it," said the woman, whom WHTM did not name.

Father wounded

Donald Meyer was flown to a hospital for treatment. He has been charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, terroristic threats and recklessly endangering another person.

There is the question of Constable Steele being armed, because some constables are not.

That is ultimately up to the judges who contract with the constables, Stoeffler said, since they determine whether the constable can carry a firearm and go through additional training to do so.

Employees of the apartment complex had accompanied Steele to Meyer's address and witnessed the shooting, police said.

The rifle Meyer carried was loaded, had a bullet in the chamber, and its magazine was filled with 30 rounds.

Credit: WPMT

Pennsylvania constables are not police officers but elected officials. They may be tasked with certain aspects of law enforcement in the duty of the courts, according to the Pennsylvania court system.

Small percentage of shooting deaths deemed accidental

More than 400,000 people in the United States were killed with firearms between 2001 to 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly 60% of deaths from gun violence recorded by the CDC were suicides.

The next biggest chunk, some 38%, were homicides -- defined as one person killing another.

The CDC characterizes 2% of all shooting deaths as accidental.

4 comments

  • Scott Schoemannn

    The constable violated one of the cardinal rules of firearm safety : KNOW YOUR BACKSTOP before firing. Add to the fact that he was a terrible shot, it is quite obvious he was not qualified to carry a firearm. Do NOT try to twist this on to the father. Two wrongs do Not Make a Right, Even though the father was LAWFULLY armed within the confines of his own home from which he had not yet been evicted, and NO law officer may shoot into a home unless first fired upon. These hard and simple facts have been upheld numerous times in federal and US Superior Court rulings as basic Civil Rights. In short the Constable is Guilty of Murder in the First Degree, as his unlawful actions of shooting into the home, resulted in the death of the girl. However the DA will put a spin on it, also violating the Father’s Civil Rights

    • LMY

      So you can just point your rifle at anyone and not expect to get shot at because your inside your home.

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