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DA: Standoff victim shot by police, suspect responsible

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 06 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Mar 08 2013 06:31:07 AM CST

A perfect storm for tragedy is how the Bucks County D.A. describes the death of Marie Zienkewicz, 89.

WARMINSTER, Pa. -

A perfect storm for tragedy is how the Bucks County D.A. describes the death of Marie Zienkewicz, 89.

The Warminster woman was accidentally shot and killed during a police standoff on February 19.

Thursday the D.A. said a Warminster Township police officer fired the shot that killed Zienkewicz.

But her death is being charged to Andrew Cairns, as police say it was his actions that ultimately led to the 89-year-old's death.

In a confluence of unpredictable and tragic events, she lost her life in the very act of offering help and shelter to a neighbor.

Bucks County D.A. David Heckler said on February 19th, Zienkewicz was shot and killed by a single bullet fired from a patrol rifle in the hands of a Warminster Township police officer.

"Under the circumstances of the case the shooting by the officer was excusable," said David Heckler.

The circumstances were this: a standoff between police and Zienkewicz's neighbor Andrew Cairns inside the Jefferson on The Creek apartment complex in Warminster..

Cairns was involved in a domestic disturbance with his girlfriend Deborah Silva.

Police say Silva was outside with a 911 operator on the phone while Cairns was firing his Magnum .44 handgun from the second floor.

Heckler said despite repeated attempts by 911 to have Silva, who police say was intoxicated, leave the area she wouldn't.

An emergency call shows Silva was more concerned for her dog than anything else.
"My dog is right here," she said.
"Can you take the dog with you," the dispatcher asked.
"My dog is right here."
"Can you take the dog and run?"
"I'll try."

But she never did.

In the middle of the gunfire Zienkewicz, Silva's neighbor, opened her door, reached for Silva and was then mistakenly shot by police.

But Cairns is being charged with the criminal homicide.

"Under the law he is responsible the deadly consequences of the chain of events he began," said Heckler.

Heckler said police mistakenly believed Zienkewicz's door was Cairns' who had fired shots just seconds before Zienkewicz opened the door.

Police say the officer was 100 yards away and fired 4 shots. They were the only shots fired by police.

Cairns fired his gun 19 times.