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Police investigate report of a shooting in Whitehall

Published On: Aug 06 2014 09:47:41 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 18 2014 07:11:44 AM CDT

Shooting in Whitehall involves constable

WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. -

Police in Lehigh County are investigating a shooting early Thursday by state constables trying to serve warrants.

According to a release from the Lehigh County District Attorney's office, two state constables were trying to serve Kevin Christopher McCullers, 38, multiple warrants for multiple summary parking offenses.

McCullers was in his car in the garage at his home in 3400 block of Portland Drive when the constables approached him.

McCullers initially cooperated, turned off his ignition and allowed a constable to open his driver side door to speak with them as they requested.

With both constables in the garage, McCullers then started his 2003 Acura once more.

"McCullers then turned on the ignition and began backing out of the garage with the driver’s door still open and with both constables between it and the side of both the vehicle and the wall of the garage," the DA's office said in a statement.

Both constables then pulled out their weapons; one shot McCullers in the back and the other shot the left front tire of the Acura.

Whitehall Police were called to the scene on Portland Drive around 7:30 a.m.

Whitehall Township detectives, county detectives and Pennsylvania State Police are investigating.

According to the DA's office, a decision will be made "about whether criminal charges are warranted and whether the use of deadly force was justified" at the conclusion of the investigation.

The two constables have not been identified, but District Attorney Jim Martin did say that they turned in their weapons.

Many react with surprise on scene:

"Frankly I'm a bit disturbed by the fact a shooting in attempt to serve parking tickets," Martin said on scene.

Martin went on to note that the constable shot "because he was in fear of serious bodily injury."

Hafeezah Muhammad said McCullers is her live-in ex-boyfriend and that he was on his way for breakfast at Dunkin Donuts when he was shot over $600 of unpaid parking tickets.

"Next thing I know they shoot this man for what? Unpaid tickets. That's America, this what the law allows for civilian constables to shoot an unarmed man?" said Hafeezah.

Neighbor Tammy Williams said this isn't the first time constables have come to serve warrants at the home.

McCullers is at Lehigh Valley Hospital in critical condition. He did have surgery Thursday.

Hafeezah says he is paralyzed.

Who's to blame?

Constables, elected for six year terms, work for the state magisterial courts and have the power to arrest, but don't answer directly to anyone.

"I'm not responsible for them, the County Executive is not responsible for them, I don't know who will impose structures with them at this point," Martin said.

Constables have been under the microscope before.

Late last year a cuffed and shackled prisoner escaped from two constables in Northampton County.

Northampton County DA John Morganelli has said more accountability is needed.

"This is not unique to Northampton County. It's a problem statewide and some constables exceed their authority and believe they are police officers," Morganelli had said in response to that incident last year.

In April, a year long accountability study of constables was completed by the state legislature. It called for more supervision, more training and increased accountability.

"The position of constable really needs to be looked at, I think, especially the oversight and what happens with that," said former Allentown City Councilwoman Gail Hoover.

She said she is reminded of a 2003 dog shooting involving constables that started with them going to serve a warrant for unpaid parking tickets.

"I'm disturbed, really disturbed, that someone feels that it's okay to take out a gun and start firing over unpaid parking tickets," she said.

Hoover added, "The constable position is certainly worthy of still being in place. Most of the constables I've dealt with throughout the years are truly professional and do a great job, a great service."