HAZLETON —An early-morning scuffle between city police and a Hazleton man ended in death after an officer fired his weapon, reportedly in self-defense.
Jonathan K. Garay, 26, of Alter Street, was pronounced dead from his wounds at 3:35 a.m. Saturday, according to Luzerne County acting Coroner William Lisman.
City police have asked state police to investigate the events that lead up to Garay’s death, state police said in a press release.
City officers were dispatched at reports of a fight around 2:30 a.m. near 2nd and Alter streets, state police said.
When they arrived, a bystander told officers Garay had a gun and was leaving the scene in a hurry. One officer caught Garay on the back porch of his home and, when he saw Garay had a gun tucked in his waistband, tried to take hold of him, state police said. The gun fell to the floor in the struggle.
When the second officer stepped onto the porch, Garay made a move, diving for his gun. He aimed it at police and one of the officers followed suit, firing his department-issued gun at Garay, state police said.
Garay was taken to Hazleton General Hospital where he died shortly after arriving, state police said.
Forensic pathologist Gary Ross, who conducted the autopsy, found Garay died from multiple gunshot wounds.
Hazleton Mayor Joe Yannuzzi said he believes city police made a judgement call in a difficult situation and did what was best for the community.
“This is certainly a tragedy,” Yannuzzi said. “For the safety of the officers and the residents, there probably wasn’t any other alternative.”
The Luzerne County District Attorney’s office is assisting in the investigation, state police said. District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis did not immediately return calls Saturday night.
The names of the responding officers are not being released at this time, state police said.