By Dave Sutor
GREENSBURG, Pa. — A New Florence man who was once acquitted of murdering a police officer was convicted by a jury on Friday of resisting arrest, disarming a law enforcement officer and one count of aggravated assault.
Ray Allen Shetler was found not guilty of a second count of aggravated assault.
A Westmoreland County jury deliberated for more than 3 1/2 hours before returning the verdict in Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio’s courtroom. Shetler’s mother and a group of police officers were in attendance.
Shetler in 2018 was tried and found not guilty of murder for the 2015 fatal shooting of St. Clair Township police Officer Lloyd Reed Jr. However, Shetler was found guilty at that trial of the lesser charges of theft and receiving stolen property, related to the theft of a vehicle after Reed was shot.
The fatal shooting and that verdict played indirect roles in the court case against him this week.
Michael Garofalo, Shetler’s assistant public defender, declined to comment after the verdict.
“This case was no more important than any of the other cases we deal with in our office,” Westmoreland County Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro said. “Obviously, Mr. Shetler had been acquitted. We respect the jury’s decision in that matter. A lot of work went into this case in terms of the state police investigating agency and the sheriffs in putting this together.”
Shetler was on probation on his 2018 theft-related convictions when a warrant was issued for his arrest in 2021 after he failed a drug test and did not show up for a probation hearing.
State troopers and Westmoreland County sheriff’s deputies searched approximately a half-dozen locations before finding Shetler hiding on Dec. 7, 2021, inside a friend’s trailer in St. Clair Township.
Multiple officers testified that they verbally identified themselves as police officers, wore uniforms and showed lights on marked vehicles while executing an arrest warrant that they determined to be “high-risk” because of Shetler’s previous shooting of Reed.
A violent confrontation ensued.
Officers testified that Shetler aggressively resisted arrest.
Shetler testified that the officers “came in hot,” “looked like killers” and immediately started attacking when they discovered him hiding under blankets and “wedged” between a wall and futon. He said that the officers were seeking “retribution” for his fatal shooting of Reed and his acquittal in that case.
Shetler claimed that an officer put a Taser to his head and said, “This is for Reed,” before firing. A Taser probe damaged Shetler’s eye, which caused him to go blind in that eye because it could not be surgically repaired. Garofalo described the situation as “quite literally” becoming “an eye for an eye” during his closing statement.
Trooper Jake Goga testified that Shetler was approximately four feet away from him when he started to fire the Taser, but that Shetler “lunged,” which caused the Taser to not hit Shetler’s midsection as Goga intended.
Officers also delivered “compliance strikes” to Shetler during a struggle that lasted an estimated 60 to 80 seconds in a 10-by-12-foot bedroom.
Garofalo ended his closing argument by showing a picture of Shetler’s bloodied face and saying, “No one should look like that after failing to appear for court.”
Both of the aggravated assault charges against Shetler involved Sgt. Irvin Shipley, from the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Department, who suffered injuries to his head, hand and shoulder when struggling to help get control of Shetler. Shipley said Shetler lunged at him, pushed him backward into a wall and attempted to take away his gun.
Shetler was found guilty on the charge that required the evidence to show that “the defendant has caused bodily injury to a law enforcement officer,” but not guilty on the charge in which the standard was that “he attempted to cause serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer,” according to Ciaramitaro.
Shetler’s sentencing is scheduled for 90 days after the verdict. Ciaramitaro said the maximum combined sentence for the three convictions would be 19 years.
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