FREEMANSBURG, Pa. - Police are mourning the loss of one of their own, after a police officer in the Lehigh Valley was shot and killed in the line of duty Thursday night.
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said Freemansburg Police Officer Robert Lasso, 31, was gunned down just after 5:00 p.m.
The suspect, George Hitcho Jr., 46, of Freemansburg, is in custody.
Morganelli said the shooting happened on New Street in the borough.
According to court documents, Lasso was originally dispatched to the 100 block of Washington Street for a report of a verbal disturbance. His investigation took him to the rear of a house in the 400 block of New Street. Shortly after arriving, he requested assistance, and Chief George Bruneio responded.
When Bruneio arrived, he said he found Lasso being attacked by two dogs. He said Lasso was aiming a taser at the dogs, and he told Lasso to shoot the dogs.
Bruneio said at that point he heard a loud pop, and saw Lasso fall to the ground. He looked up and saw Hitcho standing in the area holding a shotgun.
The court documents go on to state that Bruneio ordered Hitcho to drop the gun, and Hitcho said "he's breaking into my house."
Bruneio got Hitcho to drop the gun and went over to Lasso, who had a gunshot wound to the head and was bleeding heavily.
Immediately after the shooting, Lasso was taken to St. Luke's Hospital, Fountain Hill. He was pronounced dead at 5:42 p.m.
Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said an autopsy is scheduled for Friday to determine the cause of death. He said this is a homicide.
Court documents state that when Hitcho arrived at the State Police barracks in Bethlehem, he started making unsolicited comments such as "I told him to get off my property," and "he ain't coming on my property without a warrant" and "he tried to kill my dog and pointed a gun in my face."
Morganelli said State Police in Bethlehem are handling the investigation. Bethlehem City Police also helped with the incident.
Police said they are continuing to sort out the details of the case and are waiting to obtain search warrants to continue their investigation.
According to court records, this was not the first time Lasso and Hitcho interacted. In December 2006, Lasso was the arresting officer when Hitcho was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. In 2007, Hitcho pleaded guilty on that charge.
Because of the nature of this incident, Morganelli said he would prosecute the case personally, and he is planning on seeking the death penalty.
Governor Corbett ordered all Pennsylvania state flags in the capitol complex and at commonwealth facilities in Northampton County to fly at half-staff Friday in Lasso's honor.
Lasso is the son of Freemansburg Borough councilman Donald Lasso.
Lasso leaves behind a wife and two small children, ages three and five. He's been a member of the force since 2004.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Pennsylvania Carolyn Kaster/AP