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Officer absolved in robber’s death

Fatal attack on fleeing gunman is ruled justified

– A Fort Wayne police officer used justifiable force when he shot and killed a man who pointed an assault rifle at him last month, the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office ruled Friday.

Jeffery E. Burkholder Sr., a 31-year veteran of the force, shot and killed Stephen O’Neal Wattley II early in the morning on Feb. 20 after Wattley fled the scene of a drugstore robbery.

Wattley, 21, used an assault rifle to hold up the CVS Pharmacy at 2802 E. State Blvd., police said.

As officers arrived at the scene, they spotted a man matching the robber’s description running south from the CVS, police said.

The officers chased the man toward Baldwin Creek Apartments in the 1900 block of Hobson Road, where he scampered up a flight of stairs in one of the buildings, according to police.

The man apparently was unaware that the apartment building had sustained fire damage and that the second floor was blocked off.

Police found him standing in the stairwell when they entered.

The man then pointed the assault rifle at the officers, prompting Burkholder to fire, police said. The Allen County Coroner’s Office later identified the man as Wattley.

An investigation by the Fort Wayne Police Department and Indiana State Police ensued, and the results were forwarded to the prosecutor’s office.

“The Prosecuting Attorney Office has determined that no charges will be filed as a result, and that the officer involved was justified in using deadly force against Stephen Wattley,” a statement from the prosecutor’s office said.

The gun Wattley wielded was later determined to be a 7.62 mm semiautomatic Draco pistol made in Romania. The weapon is a variation on the AK-47 assault rifle.

Police traced the weapon to an owner who had reported it stolen in a burglary in June 2011.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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