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Family lawyer blasts report by state officials on raid
The attorney for the family of John D. Hirko said Tuesday he will ask the U.S. Attorney General's office to conduct a full investigation of the April 23 shooting and, if necessary, will file a federal lawsuit contending police violated Hirko's civil rights in storming the house.
John P. Karoly Jr., who was barred from an earlier press conference by law enforcement officials, criticized their findings as "de facto fabrication" and said Hirko's family stands to win millions of dollars through court action.
"It's a multi-million dollar lawsuit and justice demands it be pursued," said Karoly, who promised to fund the lawsuit out of his own pocket to see it continued.
In a statement released by Karoly, Hirko's mother, Gwendolyn Dashner, said police "murdered my son in cold blood and now they have the nerve to portrayed it this way."
At the same time, Hirko's girlfriend, Kristin Fodi, who was upstairs in the house when police broke in and who now faces various drug charges, labeled police "murders (sic) and liars."
"The truth will come out. The people will find out what happened," Fodi's statement read.
Fodi and Dashner, both of whom were present at Karoly's Allentown office, declined to take questions.
In a lengthy interview, Karoly dismissed state Attorney General Mike Fisher's description of events and criticized investigators for taking so long to reach a finding.
"To take five months to produce three pages of contradictory generalities is an outrage," said Karoly.
Karoly also disclosed that a private autopsy showed that Hirko was shot numerous times, both from the front and from the back.
"He was shot more than 20 times, a majority of which were in his back," said Karoly, citing an autopsy from Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht.
Law enforcement officials still have not released their own autopsy findings, other than to say Hirko was shot more than once and that all the bullets came from a automatic weapon fired by Bethlehem Police Officer Joseph Riedy.
Otherwise, Karoly raised a number of issues that are likely to be brought up in court, assuming a lawsuit is eventually filed.
In particular, Karoly questioned why no handgun was listed in an inventory of items confiscated by Bethlehem police the day following the shooting. A copy of the inventory presented by Karoly and obtained earlier by The Morning Call shows that three rifles and a holster were recovered, along with various types of drug paraphernalia, but lists no handguns.
Police, who until yesterday revealed nothing of the events inside the house, now say a .40-caliber automatic pistol was found at the scene and that a several officers witnessed Hirko fire at police, though no bullet or shell casing was recovered.
The .40-caliber was later found to have been purchased by Hirko in February and was registered in his name.
Karoly also questioned whether Hirko was shot from the front porch, as police contend, or by police entering the living room from the kitchen. Karoly said bullet holes along the wall at the bottom of the stairs indicate the shots came from the direction of the kitchen.
Karoly also said it would have been difficult for police to force their way through the front door because it was blocked by the couch Hirko was sitting on when the raid started. Karoly said Hirko and Fodi had arranged the couch and other pieces of furniture in front of the door and used a rear door to enter and leave the house.
But Karoly said that, even if many of the findings by state police and attorney general's office were correct, police still violated Hirko's constitutional rights in storming the house.