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Procession Carries Slain Officer to Morgue

Police chief asks public for prayers for Sluganski, Thomas families

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
February 06, 2023
Posted in: Crime and Police News

A mile-long possession of emergency vehicles, led by three motorcycle police officers, escorted an ambulance from UPMC McKeesport hospital to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office on Monday evening.

The McKeesport Ambulance Rescue Service vehicle carried the remains of city police Officer Sean Sluganski, 32, who died after being shot Monday afternoon near the intersection of Versailles and Grandview avenues. Sluganski was fatally wounded by a suspect as he and another officer, Charles Thomas Jr., 35, responded to a request for help during a domestic disturbance.

The suspect in Sluganski’s murder, whose name has not yet been officially made public, was shot by a third, unidentified McKeesport police officer near the intersection of Versailles and Patterson avenues.

According to unconfirmed reports, the suspect fired at least 15 rounds at Sluganski and Thomas. Allegheny County police homicide detectives are investigating and said Monday that neighbors and business owners had been “very helpful” in providing witness statements.

Sluganski died in the emergency room of UPMC McKeesport hospital, officials said. Thomas was flown by medical helicopter to UPMC Mercy Hospital, Uptown, where he underwent emergency surgery for gun shot wounds, according to multiple sources.

The suspect was flown to UPMC Presbyterian hospital, Oakland, where he was reportedly under heavy police guard.

McKeesport police Chief Adam Alfer said Monday night that Sluganski had worked for the department since 2020 and had been elevated to full-time status in January 2021. According to published reports, Sluganski had previously worked for the Whitaker and Charleroi Regional police.

Friends, speaking under condition of anonymity, said that Sluganski, a native of Baldwin Borough and a graduate of the Allegheny County police academy, was engaged, and that he and his fiancee had recently celebrated the birth of a child and purchased a home in McKeesport.

Thomas, a former Homestead police officer, has worked for the McKeesport police for four years, Alfer said. Sources described Thomas as well-liked. He recently participated in a “shop with a cop” event during the Christmas holidays, according to a story in the Mon Valley Independent.

Alfer said Thomas was discharged from the hospital on Monday night and was at home recovering with his family.

“This is a tragic loss for our department and our community,” Alfer said. “We have lost a friend, a trusted colleague and an officer whose passion was providing service to the public. At this time, we ask that you keep all of our officers and their families in your hearts, particularly the families of Officer Sluganski and Officer Thomas.”

McKeesport firefighters were seen Monday night at the veteran’s memorial near the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Lysle Boulevard, lowering the flags to half-staff.

County police said McKeesport officers were dispatched at around 12:30 p.m. Monday to a home on Wilson Street after a woman said her adult son was suffering from what police described as “mental health issues.”

According to emergency personnel who asked not to be identified, the woman reportedly told 9-1-1 dispatchers that there were weapons in the house, but that they had been secured.

When police arrived, the woman’s son was walking away from the scene, Allegheny County police said. Sluganski and Thomas were attempting to follow him on foot when he turned and began shooting, police said.

A bystander suffered a superficial injury and declined treatment, police said.

The suspect was known to police from previous incidents, Allegheny County police Superintendent Christopher Kearns said Monday.

Sluganski is the first McKeesport police officer killed in the line of duty in nearly 30 years. In November 1993, city police officer Frank Miller Jr. was shot following a struggle with a homeless man in an alley off of Walnut Street, Downtown.

Funeral arrangements for Sluganski have not yet been announced. Allegheny County sheriff’s deputies, Pennsylvania state troopers and Allegheny County police were answering some calls in McKeesport on Monday night.

Originally published February 06, 2023.

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