Pennsylvania State Police have released the name of the trooper who shot and killed former Columbia resident Daryl Berry in what police describe as an altercation on the Pennsylvania State Turnpike on March 7.
Maria Finn, press secretary for the state police, said in an email Wednesday that trooper Marshall Kephart shot Berry in the incident. Kephart said he reacted in self-defense and that Berry turned his dogs loose and then beat the officer with a flashlight, according to news reports.
The incident is under investigation by the state police, said Finn. Kephart was placed on administrative leave for five days after the shooting, according to Finn. He was reinstated on March 13. There have been no allegations of wrongdoing.
Berry's death was the first case of a Pennsylvania State Police shooting death in 2012, according to Finn. Since 2008, 20 people have been shot and killed by Pennsylvania State Police officers. Finn said 18 were legally justified by district attorneys; two are still under investigation.
Finn cited a video in which Kephart's name was revealed by Frank Noonan, state police commissioner. Noonan invoked the shooting at a hearing of the Law and Justice Committee of the Pennsylvania State Legislature as a reason the state police should retain full funding.
“There was a trooper, trooper Kephart, on the turnpike,” said Noonan in the video. “He receives a call of an accident, he responds to the accident. The individual [Berry] has two large Rottweiler dogs, which when trooper Kephart approaches the car, the driver releases the dogs. The dogs attack the officer and then the driver grabs a flashlight and starts beating the officer over the head. The trooper eventually killed him. That’s the shirt the trooper was wearing; it’s covered in blood.”
In the video, he points to a picture of the shirt, which was posted on a large posterboard.
“The reason I want to bring this to your attention is because it illustrates how important it was that the troopers on the road have backup,” added Noonan, “We had someone there in 5 minutes.”
Berry’s mother, a prominent Columbia psychologist, has questioned the police version of events. Dr. Joyce Hamilton Berry that her son was non-violent, had no criminal history and that his dogs were not trained to attack.
She said the state police told her Kephart’s dashboard video camera was malfunctioning at the time of the incident. Police reports from the shooting have not been released.
Finn did not respond to questions about any procedures in place should dashboard cameras fail.
“We do not publicize such information for officer safety reasons,” she said.
In 2009, an attorney in Pennsylvania filed a request for the standard operating procedures regarding dashboard video cameras. The state police initially refused his request, but it was granted after an appeal.
“The request includes specific types of records that relate to a specific piece of equipment used by the PSP,” wrote the appeals officer in the case. “The PSP is directed to provide the records requested.”
Patch has filed a public records request for police reports in the incident and other related information.