Patrolman Derek Kotecki
Lower Burrell Police Department, Pennsylvania
End of Watch: Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Tour of Duty: 18 years
Badge Number: Not available
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: October 12, 2011
Weapon Used: Handgun
Suspect Info: Shot and killed
Agency Contact Information
Chief Tracy Lindo
Lower Burrell Police Department
2800 Bethel Street
Lower Burrell, PA 15068
Phone: (724) 339-4287
Patrolman Derek Kotecki was shot and killed while investigating reports of a wanted man at a local fast food restaurant. The man was wanted for a shooting ten days earlier and for threatening police officers during the previous week.
As Patrolman Kotecki and his canine, Benny, approached, the man suddenly opened fire. Patrolman Kotecki suffered a fatal wound. The subject then fled but was approached by other officers as he attempted to climb a fence behind the restaurant. He was killed during an exchange of shots with the responding officers.
K9 Benny was uninjured but had to be muzzled after refusing to leave Patrolman Kotecki’s side.
Patrolman Kotecki had served with the Lower Burrell Police Department for 18 years. He is survived by his wife and two children.
It will take Lower Burrell a lifetime to heal after the death of Patrolman Derek Kotecki, a city councilman said.
"Derek was a first-class individual and he was a wonderful officer, husband, father, son," said city Councilman David Regoli. "He represented the city as well as any officer could represent the city."
Kotecki, a K-9 officer, had pushed to get a police dog for the department.
Kotecki, 40, played Little League baseball in Lower Burrell and played on the Burrell High School basketball team.
He joined the Lower Burrell police force in October 1993 at the age of 22.
Kotecki was the father of two boys, Regoli said. His father, Richard, is a former city councilman.
"Our community has lost one of the finest public servants that we have," Regoli said. "More importantly, two children lost a father and his wife lost a husband and his parents lost a son."
Councilman Joe Grillo called Kotecki a "dedicated" officer who worked well with police dogs.
"He was a good father and husband — a good family man," said Grillo, who is in charge of public safety.
Regoli said calls poured in on his cell phone about the incident, and he hoped the news wasn’t true.
"It’s devastating," Regoli said. "As a city official, this is the call you would never want to get."
Kotecki is believed to be the first Lower Burrell officer to be killed in the line of duty.
"This is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a community," Regoli said.
Officials were wracked with the shock of the incident happening in their quiet hometown.
"This is something that you’d never expect to have in this community," Regoli said. "It’s the worst day I’ve had as a public official."
Said Grillo, "You would think this would happen in big cities."
Kotecki patrolled the boardwalk in Ocean City, Md., as a part-time officer before he was hired full time in Lower Burrell under then-Chief William Newell.
In a 1994 interview with the Valley News Dispatch, Kotecki said he welcomed the chance to police his hometown.
"I wanted to be able to go home and actually feel like I did something at the end of the day," he said.
Patrolman Kotecki was involved with some of the first Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) programs in Burrell School District.
Kotecki in the 1994 interview indicated even in relatively low-crime Lower Burrell, officers still face risks and can’t be lazy in their crime-fighting techniques.
"You have to become more aggressive and find out what’s going on," he said. "You can’t sit and wait for a call to come to you telling you that a burglary is in progress. You don’t want to be the last to know."
LOWER BURRELL, Pa. (AP) — Officers were wary when they went to a western Pennsylvania Dairy Queen to arrest a man wanted for a shooting earlier this month, because the suspect had previously threatened to harm police — and those threats were realized when one of the first officers to arrive was gunned down, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck wouldn’t say if police expected 33-year-old Charles Post to surrender at the ice cream shop in Lower Burrell about 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Peck told The Associated Press on Thursday that police "expected (Post) to be there, they expected to apprehend him at that location."
Whatever police expected, Post followed through on his earlier threat, shooting and killing Lower Burrell Officer Derek Kotecki, 40.
Post was then fatally shot as he ran away from officers and couldn’t scale a fence leading to some woods behind the store. An autopsy was scheduled later Thursday to determine whether Post was killed by gunfire from other officers or a self-inflicted gunshot that some officers reported seeing, Peck said.
Peck told the AP that Post first threatened police who searched for him after an Oct. 2 shooting in a motel parking lot in neighboring New Kensington. Peck referenced those threats in praising Kotecki’s bravery at the shooting scene earlier Thursday.
"Obviously, officer Kotecki was a man of a great deal of courage," Peck told reporters "He was able to face a man who had actually threatened … the officers of the city of Lower Burrell with physical harm."
Nobody was injured in the earlier shooting in New Kensington, which is next to Lower Burrell along the Allegheny River, about 20 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Post — described by authorities as a quick-tempered man with a drug habit — fired a gun at his boss, a contractor, during the argument and then fled. Three bullets hit the contractor’s truck, and police went looking for Post in some nearby woods overlooking the river.
Searchers called Post on his cellphone during the search, and Peck said Post threatened the officers in a conversation with Lower Burrell Detective Sgt. Scott Cardenas. Peck wouldn’t describe the threat and Cardenas and Lower Burrell police Chief Tracy Lindo did not immediately return calls for comment.
Nor did New Kensington Detective Sgt. Dino DiGiacobbe, who told the Valley News Dispatch shortly after Kotecki’s shooting that a Lower Burrell detective had spoken with Post on a cellphone earlier Wednesday and tried to convince the fugitive to surrender.
DiGiacobbe told the newspaper Post claimed to have a gun with 14 bullets: "Thirteen for the cops and one for me."
Peck said he couldn’t confirm that account — though he did say police had been in cellphone contact with Post or someone close to him in the hours before the shooting.
However Wednesday’s night’s meeting was arranged, Kotecki, Lower Burrell’s K-9 police dog handler, arrived to find Post sitting in the passenger seat of a white Jeep. Post got out and immediately began shooting, Peck said.
Peck wouldn’t say who was driving the vehicle. Peck also said it was "way too early" to determine if that person or anybody else might face charges of helping Post to elude police or in connection with the shooting.
Alicia Heymers, co-owner of New Ken Auto-Motive across the street, told the Valley News Dispatch that she was cleaning in her business when she heard a commotion outside. She saw several officers with their weapons drawn, firing toward the woods behind the Dairy Queen.
"There were a lot of shots, at least six or eight," Heymers said. "I thought (they were shooting at) a bear until I heard them yelling, ‘Get down, get down!’"
Kotecki was a married father of two and one of 16 police officers, including Chief Lindo, in Lower Burrell, a city of about 13,000.
Lindo visited with the families of both dead men and expressed his grief to reporters at the scene overnight.
"I know I’m devastated by this. Derek was a great, great officer," Lindo said.
Gov. Tom Corbett has ordered flags at the Capitol and state buildings in Westmoreland County lowered to half-staff until Kotecki’s burial. Arrangements were incomplete.
Grief counselors were available at the Burrell School District, where Kotecki’s 13- and 9-year-old sons are students. Kotecki graduated from the district in 1989 and previously taught police-sponsored anti-drug courses there.