4 charged with aiding handcuffed fugitive who allegedly shot Pennsylvania police officer
The search for a man shown in video shooting a suburban Pittsburgh police officer while handcuffed stretched into its second week Sunday as authorities announced the arrests of four people accused of helping him avoid being captured.
The suspect, Koby Francis, 22, has managed to elude arrest for a full week since the shooting of Officer Gerasimos “Jerry” Athans, 32, outside the McKeesport, Pennsylvania, Police Department. A $15,000 reward is being offered for Francis’s arrest, and an all-hands-on-deck search for him has spread out to multiple states.
Allegheny County Police arrested Jasmyn Henderson-Bracey, 25, Gesiah Grigsby, 21, Daniel Neal, 19, and Justine Kenyatta, 20, all of East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, on charges of hindering the apprehension of Francis.
Police alleged Henderson-Bracey and Grigsby were seen in surveillance footage at a grocery store in McKeesport with Francis on Dec. 22, two days after the Athans was shot. At the time, Francis was still wearing a pair of handcuffs, police said, citing the video.
The video, according to authorities, also showed Neal, who police identified as Francis’s brother, walk into the store and pull the hood of a sweater over Francis’s head in an apparent attempt to hide his face as they exited the store. Kenyatta was later seen riding in a vehicle with Neal and Francis, authorities alleged.
Police received a tip last week that Francis was spotted at a home in McKeesport, officials said. When officers went to the home they found Grigsby and Henderson-Bracey there, they said.
Grigsby and Henderson-Bracey allegedly told investigators they had not seen Francis since before the shooting, statements that contradicted the video footage taken from the McKeesport grocery store, authorities said.
While being questioned by investigators on Dec. 23, Neal claimed that on the day of the shooting, he and Kenyatta met with Francis at the McKeesport grocery story and that his brother asked him for a ride to North Versailles, about five miles northeast of McKeesport, officials said. Neal claimed that while driving Francis to North Versailles, he began to feel uncomfortable and stopped to let Francis out of the car.
Police said they checked surveillance video from the area Neal claimed they left Francis but found no evidence supporting Neal’s story of where he and his brother parted ways.
Neal, Kenyatta, Henderson-Bracey and Grigsby were all in custody on Sunday on charges of hindering Francis’s apprehension. They are scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 4.
Athans, a four-year veteran of the McKeesport Police Department, was shot in the neck and shoulder after transporting Francis to the police station, officials said.
His wounds were non-life-threatening, and he is expected to make a full recovery.
Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman J. McDonough said during a news conference last week that, prior to the shooting, Francis went to the McKeesport Police Department to be served with a protective order. McDonough alleged that Francis left the police department angry and went to pick up his infant son at a public housing complex, in violation of the protective order.
Francis was then found at a second public housing project in violation of the order and was searched and arrested by Athans and another officer. McDonough said that while officers seized a gun from Francis’s car, they failed to find the firearm the suspect had hidden on him.
McDonough said investigators reviewed surveillance video and confirmed Francis was placed in the back of Athans’s patrol vehicle with his hands cuffed behind him. During the news conference, McDonough played a security video that showed a suspect with his hands cuffed in front of him shooting Athans.
The footage shows Athans exiting the patrol vehicle and walking around to the rear passenger-side door. As soon as he opened the door, gunshots rang out, and Athans doubled over as he staggered to the front of the vehicle for cover. The suspect is seen emerging from the vehicle and firing at least one more shot at Athans, who drew his gun and returned fire but missed.
McDonough described Francis as armed and dangerous and asked the public to contact authorities immediately if they know of his whereabouts.