A Pennsylvania state constable fatally shot a 12-year-old girl while serving an eviction notice to her father in Duncannon, Pennsylvania, on Monday. The constable, who was delivering the notice from a district court, shot the father in the arm, but the bullet passed through him, striking and killing the young girl.
According to police, Donald B. Meyer, 57, was behind on rent, and District Judge Daniel McGuire had issued an eviction order that Meyer reportedly failed to appeal. Pennsylvania State Constable Clarke Steele, a law enforcement officer tasked with carrying out orders from the judicial system, came to enforce the eviction order. Police allege Meyer first opened the front door, then shut it. He then reportedly re-opened the door armed with a rifle, pointing it at Steele.
In response, Steele fired his gun at Meyer, but the bullet exited through Meyer’s left arm, travelling to Ciara, Meyer’s 12-year-old daughter, who was standing behind him. Ciara was home sick from school on Monday. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Very kind, sweet kid,” a neighbor told local ABC27. “Here’s a little girl that doesn’t even have a chance to grow up and live her life, and all because of this senseless act. It’s horrible, absolutely heartbreaking.”
According to state police spokesperson, Trooper Rob Hicks, Meyer had been previously notified he had to leave the apartment by 10:00 am Monday, January 11. Hicks said, “It was absolutely no surprise he was coming at this date and time.” Hicks said Steele had been to Meyer’s residence “numerous times” to warn of the impending eviction. Police said that after the incident, they discovered Meyer’s gun had a round in the chamber, along with a magazine of 30 rounds.
Bil Stoeffler, a Dauphin County constable and spokesperson for the capital area constables’ association, stressed both that Steele is respected by fellow law enforcement and that Ciara’s death was accidental. “It was absolutely not intentional that the girl was shot,” he said. “The constable fired one round when he faced an immediate threat from which he could not retreat safely – he had no other force options.” While it’s possible this statement is true for Meyer’s situation, Stoeffler’s explanation is an oft-repeated justification for law enforcement shootings.
Nevertheless, Steele is reportedly devastated by the incident and has suspended work activities until an investigation into Monday’s incident is complete. A source close to him reportedly told ABC27 that Steele is “very distraught over the situation.”
Donald Meyer was taken to Penn State Hershey Medical Center on Monday morning due to injuries sustained from the bullet that passed through him to kill his daughter.
By Tuesday, he had been charged with a litany of offenses: aggravated assault, simple assault, terroristic threats, and reckless endangerment. Meyer will be held in prison without bail once he is released from the hospital.
He is due back in court for a preliminary hearing on January 15. Ciara’s body is scheduled for autopsy on Wednesday.