Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Trooper Linked to South Side Death, Involved in Previous Killing

A state trooper that helped shoot and kill a man driving dangerously on South Side early Sunday morning was also involved in the killing of an unarmed 12-year-old boy in 2002. Trooper Samuel Nassan fatally shot Nicholas Haniotakis, 33, of the South Side after he tried to run over officers with his SUV. He had been charged in the past with trying to run down an officer.

Haniotakis was spotted driving erratically on the South Side around 2 a.m. on March 15 by Nassan and Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Terrence Donnelly who were on DUI patrol. Haniotakis refused to pull over and eventually crashed. The officers ordered him out of the car, but instead Hanitokas reversed his vehicle, hitting their unmarked police vehicle. The two officers fired on Hanitokas who then drove another six blocks before crashing into a utility pole at 22nd and Sarah Streets.

In December 2002 Nassan shot Michael Ellerbe in the back in Uniontown during a foot chase after Ellerbe jumped out of a stolen vehicle. Nassan said he thought Ellerbe had shot his partner, whose gun went off accidentally while he climbed a fence.

The shooting was ruled justified by law enforcement authorities. But last year a federal jury found that the troopers intentionally shot the boy and awarded the family $28 million. The state later agreed to a $12.5 million payment.

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