Pa. man pepper sprays cops investigating ambulance interference
Man said he believed troopers were impersonating police officers
By Liz Zemba
FAYETTE COUNTY, Pa. — When his pet Chihuahua failed to scare off a state trooper, a Fayette County man said he used pepper spray on the uniformed trooper because he believed he was impersonating a police officer.
To giggles from a packed courtroom, Christopher Laurence Kelley, 48, told a judge a trooper came to his house in Georges to investigate a report that Kelley had interfered with an ambulance. But the officer left when the Chihuahua began to chew his boot, Kelley said Monday.
But the officer quickly returned — with two other troopers as backup — prompting Kelley to deploy the pepper spray.
"I sprayed it up his nose," Kelley testified.
At that moment, he realized all three troopers were legitimate. By then, "it was too late," Kelley testified.
Kelley, of 306 Shady Side Lane, testified during a hearing yesterday as he pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault in connection with the Jan. 25, 2011, incident. In exchange for the plea, Assistant District Attorney Michelle Kelley, who is not related to the defendant, said charges of simple assault and reckless endangerment will be dropped.
In a criminal complaint, police said they were contacted by Fairchance EMS workers who said Kelley, also known as Donald Bowman Jr., stood in the middle of the road, waved a large metal club and screamed at them to turn around while they were on a medical call near his residence.
They told police they were delayed and had to take an alternate route to Uniontown Hospital because of Kelley's actions.
According to a criminal complaint, when Trooper Andrew Reith went to Kelley's residence to investigate, Kelley told the trooper he is the only authorized EMS provider for Georges and claimed Fairchance EMS was infringing on his territory.
Kelley yesterday testified he believed Reith was a "bogus" police officer, so Kelley refused to show any identification. He testified he retreated into his house when his Chihuahua began to chew the trooper's boot.
"Anybody can buy a uniform," Kelley testified. "The first (trooper) was in a uniform, but in a bogus police car."
Reith said he made sure the dog was indoors, for its safety, before he went to his patrol vehicle to call for backup.
Officers used a Taser to subdue Kelley, according to court documents. Michelle Kelley said none of the troopers sustained permanent injuries from the pepper spray.
Christopher Kelley faces a maximum of 30 years in prison when he is sentenced 11:15 a.m. March 14 before Judge John F. Wagner Jr.