PHILADELPHIA –– Ciara Meyer stood directly behind her father as he raised a .223-calibre rifle and pointed it at the chest of a constable who had come to serve an eviction notice at their apartment.
The constable responded with a single shot.
That bullet went through the arm of 57-year-old Donald Meyer and into his 12-year-old daughter Ciara, killing her.
Meyer now faces charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, terroristic threats and recklessly endangering another person, according to a Pennsylvania State Police report. He was flown to Hershey Medical Centre for treatment after Monday’s shooting in Perry County.
The man who shot him, Constable Clarke Steele, is “heartbroken” over the incident, his friend and fellow constable Bill Stoeffler told CNN affiliate WPMT-TV.
“He was put in a position from which he couldn’t retreat safely,” Stoeffler said of the shooting, calling it “every constable’s worst nightmare”.
“He had no other option, really, than what he did.”
Donald Meyer knew the constable was coming, Pennsylvania State Trooper Robert Hicks told WPMT. His family had got multiple notifications, with the last makingit clear a constable was on the way with an eviction notice.
“When they heard the knock, they knew who it was,” Hicks said.
When Steele arrived at 10 a.m. Monday, “the suspect opened the door to the residence and then shut it”, according to the police report.
Meyer then reopened the door and, after “a brief exchange of words,” levelled a rifle that had been concealed and aimed it at Steele.
“Constable Steele, who was in uniform, quickly removed his .40 calibre duty weapon from its holster and fired a single round,” the police report said, noting that employees of the apartment complex witnessed the encounter.
That bullet “shattered the bone in [Meyer’s] left arm”, Hicks told CNN affiliate WHTM-TV, then went into the body of Ciara, who had stayed home sick from school.
She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the police report.
Investigators recovered the rifle her father had been carrying and found it with “a loaded chamber and a magazine containing 30 rounds”.
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.
The Pennsylvania State Police, along with the Perry County District Attorney’s Office, are investigating what happened Monday, but Hicks suggested Steele was unfairly thrust into a difficult spot.
“The father put the constable in a situation where he had to make a decision to use deadly force,” the trooper said. “And he did.
“And now we have this tragedy.”