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The Peoria Journal Star
Friday, August 17, 2007
By Leslie Fark of the Journal Star
PEORIA – Brian Pitzer told police he didn’t have the guts to kill himself so he would force police to do it. On May 24, police exhausted several measures to end a nearly five-hour standoff peacefully at the Creve Coeur man’s house. Pitzer, 32, of 309 Ehrett St. was shot twice in the back as he raised a loaded 12-gauge shotgun at police.
His death was ruled a suicide Thursday by a Peoria County Coroner’s jury.
“He said he didn’t know if he could kill himself so he was going to force us to kill him,” Creve Coeur Police Chief Mike Button testified during Pitzer’s inquest.
Button and a hostage negotiator from the Central Illinois Emergency Response Team (CIERT) tried unsuccessfully for hours to coax Pitzer from his house unarmed.
During the course of the standoff, an armed Pitzer left his house three times to speak with police.
“Every conversation I had with him he never got off it,” said Button, referring to the suicide-by-cop scenario. “As the night progressed, he continued to drink and became more agitated.”
It was during Pitzer’s last venture from the house that the situation turned hairy.
As an armed Pitzer walked halfway down his street, a few members of the CIERT team sneaked inside his home, Button said.
When he tried to re-enter the house by the same side door, police shocked Pitzer with a Taser. Only one of the two probes latched onto Pitzer’s skin, rendering the device ineffective.
Button said as an officer inside the house began to reload the Taser, CIERT members outside the house closed in on Pitzer.
“He raised his shotgun and pointed it directly at the officers,” Button said. “They felt they didn’t have any other choice but to fire.”
It was East Peoria police officer and CIERT team member Chad LaCost who fatally shot Pitzer. The Tazewell County State’s Attorney Office has deemed the shooting justified and that LaCost acted accordingly to save the life of his fellow officers.
Blood drawn from Pitzer during his autopsy indicated his blood-alcohol level was 0.055 percent at the time of his death. Further testing of his eye fluid determined Pitzer had a BAC of 0.114 percent, which is an indicator of the blood level about two hours prior.
The shooting occurred about 8:45 p.m. May 24 and he died almost four hours later in surgery.
The anti-depressant Bupropion also was found during toxicology testing.
Pitzer’s family attended the inquest but declined to comment on advice of attorney Richard Steagall, who has been hired to determine if there is enough evidence to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
“Neighbors who are witnesses saw that when he was actually tasered, the gun had dropped and was not in his hands,” Steagall said after the inquest. “When he was shot, the gun was not in his hands. There was no reason to shoot him.”
In other inquests, the jury ruled as accidents the deaths of:
– Darlene E. Horn, 54, who last resided in Peoria Heights. Horn was hit by a drunken driver June 11 on Knoxville Avenue near Proctor Hospital as she walked across the street.
The driver, Kevin S. Larson, 26, also of Peoria Heights, had been celebrating with his wife, Jennifer, earlier in the evening. He had not been speeding at the time of accident and has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
No drugs or alcohol were detected in Horn’s system.
– James L. Curtis, 60, homeless, died from a neck injury June 7 after he was found at the bottom of a stairwell outside the vacant Julian Hotel, 724 SW Adams St. The injury could have been sustained by him falling and striking his neck, he may have struck his neck on an object or been strangled, Peoria County Coroner Johnna Ingersoll said.
An empty bottle of vodka was found underneath Curtis’ body. At the top of the stairs, a makeshift bed of cardboard and clothing were found.
His BAC was 0.134 percent, according to toxicology tests. Hospital records indicate Curtis had a history of alcohol abuse.
Leslie Fark can be reached at 686-3188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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EP police detective honored for bravery — (The Peoria Journal Star)
By ADRIANA COLINDRES
East Peoria Police Detective Chad LaCost on Friday received the Illinois Law Enforcement Medal of Honor for exhibiting bravery when he ended a five-hour police standoff last May with an armed Creve Coeur man.
“It’s a great honor,” LaCost, 37, said after the awards ceremony in the Executive Mansion in Springfield. “You don’t expect to get rewards for your job and so forth, but it’s still a very nice accolade.”
According to testimony at Pitzer’s inquest, he had told police he couldn’t kill himself and that he would make them do it. His death was ruled a suicide.
At Friday’s ceremony, Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent praised LaCost and the other medal recipients for being heroes – “ordinary people who do extraordinary things.”
LaCost said he doesn’t see himself as a hero.
“I can honestly say I am very proud to be a member of the team I’m on,” he said of the response team, which is based at the Peoria County Sheriff’s Department. “And if any other one of the team members had been in my position, I’m confident they would have acted the same as I did and had a positive outcome for the team and community.”
Audience members who watched LaCost pick up his medal included his parents, Dennis and Kathy LaCost of East Peoria, and East Peoria Police Chief Ed Papis.
“He deserves it,” said Dennis LaCost.