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Union Creates Fund for Fallen Officer

Accused assailant jailed on homicide charges

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
February 10, 2023
Posted in: Crime and Police News

The union representing McKeesport police has created a memorial fund to benefit the family of an officer killed Monday in the line of duty.

City police Officer Sean Sluganski, 32, a Baldwin native, died at the emergency room of UPMC McKeesport hospital following an encounter with a suspect on Grandview Avenue. Another officer, Charles Thomas Jr., 35, was seriously wounded and flown to UPMC Mercy Hospital, Uptown. He is now recovering at home.

Carl Bailey, president of Teamsters Local 205, based in White Oak, said the union was “shocked and saddened” by the attack on its members.

“Sean Sluganski served his community because he cared so deeply about it,” Bailey said in a prepared statement. “He was the personification of those values which compose the soul of the badge — honor, courage, loyalty, integrity, selflessness, the confidence of the community and public trust.”

Investigators said Sluganski and Thomas were investigating a domestic disturbance at a home on Wilson Street involving a person suffering a mental-health issue due to post-traumatic stress disorder.

County police said that as Sluganski approached Johnathan Jermia Morris, 31, on foot, Morris fired on him, and on Thomas, who was in a patrol car nearby. Thomas returned fire, injuring Morris, investigators said.

Morris is accused of also shooting at another McKeesport police officer before being taken into custody.

Bailey, who also serves as president of the Teamsters Law Enforcement League said the “horrific tragedy is a stark reminder of the peril that our brave men and women in law enforcement face every day when they put on their uniforms and go to work.”

The union has created a memorial fund at Parkview Community Federal Credit Union, Bailey said, and the family will received 100 percent of the donations. Checks may be made payable to Sean Sluganski Memorial Fund, care of Parkview Community Federal Credit Union, 2100 Eden Park Blvd., McKeesport, PA 15132.

Sluganski is survived by his mother, Terri; his fiancee, Chelsea Cancilla; and his daughter, Haven; sisters, Sarah Griener and Shela Sluganski; nieces, Macie Sluganski and Madison Griener; grandmother, Marilyn Williams; as well as aunts, uncles and cousins. Friends will be received at John F. Slater Funeral Home from 12 noon to 8 p.m. Sunday and 2 to 8 p.m. Monday. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 12 noon Tuesday at Blessed Trinity Parish, St. Albert the Great Church.

The superintendent of Baldwin-Whitehall School District said this week educators were “holding Sean’s memory close as we offer our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt condolences.”

Sluganski was a 2009 graduate of Baldwin High School.

“In honor of Sean’s life’s work to serve and protect our region, please let us also acknowledge the need for increased access to mental health services and support, as Sean’s untimely passing is directly related to the dangers created by untreated public mental health concerns,” Superintendent Randal A. Lutz said.

“By making it easier for everyone to acquire the help they need, we will make our streets and communities safer for all, and we will also greatly reduce the risk to those like Sean who so proudly dedicate their lives to serving and protecting others,” he said.

Morris has been under heavy police guard since Monday afternoon. On Thursday, he was released from UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, Oakland, into the custody of Allegheny County police, as McKeesport police watched.

Morris was arraigned Thursday before Magisterial District Judge Jehosha Wright on charges of criminal homicide, aggravated assault, assault on a law-enforcement officer and attempted murder of a law-enforcement officer, and ordered held in the Allegheny County Jail without bail pending a preliminary hearing Feb. 17.

Originally published February 10, 2023.

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