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Thursday 18 January 2018

Officer shot dead as police 'ambushed' responding to call

Police vehicles line the streets of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (AP)
Police vehicles line the streets of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (AP)

A gunman with a history of domestic abuse fatally shot a police officer and wounded a second before he and a woman were found dead following a reported fight at their Pennsylvania apartment, authorities have said.

Scott Bashioum and the other officer were responding separately to an emergency call from neighbours at around 3.15am when they were "ambushed upon their arrival" and immediately shot, state police trooper Melinda Bondarenka said.

The officers had arrived almost simultaneously, though authorities said other details of the initial confrontation were not immediately clear.

Mr Bashioum, 52, a father of four on the force for seven years, died less than an hour later at Canonsburg Hospital, the Washington County coroner said.

The wounded officer, whose name was not released, was in a stable condition after surgery at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, officials said.

The man and woman found in the home were not identified by police, but officials said the man died of a self-inflicted wound. No cause of death was given for his girlfriend.

Lawyer David Wolf identified the dead couple as Michael Cwiklinski, 47, of nearby Houston, Pennsylvania, and his girlfriend, Dalia Sabae.

Mr Wolf said he had known the couple since November 2015, when Cwiklinski was charged with simple assault and harassment for swinging a bag of merchandise and hitting Ms Sabae in the eye.

The case was resolved, with the assault charge being dropped and Cwiklinski pleading guilty to harassment.

He was sentenced to anger management classes and required to have a mental health evaluation, Mr Wolf said.

Neighbours said police were called to the couple's home frequently, and Canonsburg police chief Al Coghill confirmed the gunman was known to authorities, without naming him or providing details.

Ms Sabae obtained a protection-from-abuse order last month, after dropping one she had last year, Mr Wolf said.

"She told me they were having trouble again," said Mr Wolf, who could not represent Ms Sabae because he represented Cwiklinski.

Mr Wolf said he had encouraged Ms Sabae to get another protection order and said Cwiklinski was there when he ran into the couple at the county courthouse.

Cwiklinski and Ms Sabae, an Eqyptian citizen, had met online, the lawyer said.

Authorities said the apartment may have been "booby trapped" but declined to provide details.

The bomb squad from neighbouring Allegheny County was called to safeguard the scene before police entered and found the couple dead, police said.

Mayor David Rhome and Mr Coghill said the shooting was unprecedented for Canonsburg, a borough of about 8,900 residents 20 miles south west of Pittsburgh that is best known as the birthplace of singers Bobby Vinton and Perry Como.

A military memorial outside the borough building, already decorated with flags for Friday's Veterans' Day observance, became a makeshift memorial for Mr Bashioum, with residents dropping off flowers, candles and other mementoes.


Press Association

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