Lancaster police officer cleared in fatal shooting of schizophrenic man with knife

The district attorney released the 911 call from the family as it concluded its investigation.

By Brett Sholtis

Rulennis Munoz (center right) outside Lancaster Courthouse Oct. 14, after learning that the police officer who fatally shot her brother had been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Lancaster County District Attorney. Her mother, Miguelina Peña, and her attorney Michael Perna (far right) stood by.

Brett Sholtis / WITF

Rulennis Munoz (center right) outside Lancaster Courthouse Oct. 14, after learning that the police officer who fatally shot her brother had been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Lancaster County District Attorney. Her mother, Miguelina Peña, and her attorney Michael Perna (far right) stood by.

(Lancaster) — The Lancaster police officer who fatally shot 27-year-old Ricardo Munoz was justified in doing so and will not face any criminal charges, according to the county district attorney.

The officer, whose name has not been made public, was responding to a 911 call when Munoz ran outside, shouted at the officer to get back, and charged toward him with a knife. The shooting was captured on police body camera footage that was made public soon after the incident.

Brett Sholtis / WITF

Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams watches the Sept. 13 police body camera video showing Ricardo Munoz with a knife running toward an unnamed Lancaster police officer at an Oct. 14 press conference.

Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said the video shows that the officer didn’t have time to use de-escalation techniques or non-lethal force such as a stun gun.

“The law simply does not require that the officer use less-than-lethal force when faced with imminent death or serious bodily injury to themselves or another,” Adams said.

An attorney for the family, Michael Perna, said he was not surprised by the district attorney’s findings, though he was disappointed.

Perna noted the family repeatedly tried to get help for Ricardo, calling the county crisis intervention line and the police non-emergency number before calling 911.

He said his team wants to know why Ricardo wasn’t given behavioral health care prior to the incident, and why police didn’t respond with someone such as a trained social worker.

witf · A family’s sorrow — and questions unanswered

The district attorney made the family’s 911 call public. In that call, Ricardo’s sister Deborah says that Ricardo is being “very aggressive” and that he has schizophrenia. She requests help taking Ricardo to the hospital.

Deborah also says that Ricardo had punched the inside of a car, and that he was trying to break into his mother’s house.

Ricardo’s sister, Rulennis Munoz, said that the district attorney and police disregarded the family’s requests for behavioral health help.

“And instead of a cop just being there, there should have been other responders,” Munoz said. “There should have been someone that knew how to deal with this type of situation.”

More: Police and prison guards demand compliance. That only makes situations worse for people with serious mental illness in Pa. 


Brett Sholtis
Brett Sholtis

Brett Sholtis was a health reporter for WITF/Transforming Health until early 2023. Sholtis is the 2021-2022 Reveal Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grantee for Mental Health Investigative Journalism with the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism. His award-winning work on problem areas in mental health policy and policing helped to get a woman moved from a county jail to a psychiatric facility. Sholtis is a University of Pittsburgh graduate and a Pennsylvania Army National Guard Kosovo campaign veteran.

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