In March 1969, Johnstown police Officer Charles LaPorta Jr. fired a shot that fatally wounded a 15-year-old Prospect youth in an alley behind Arrow Furniture Co. on Franklin Street.
An autopsy showed that the victim, Timothy Perkins, had been shot in the back of the head.
LaPorta and another officer had been called to the scene following reports of teens drinking alcohol and causing a disturbance. They found a dozen young males, one of whom the officers believed was a violent person.
LaPorta later testified that he was “surprised and scared” when he encountered the group and that the shooting was an accident. The gun fired, he said, while he was “tussling” with Perkins while trying to arrest him.
LaPorta, who was 27 and had been on the force for 14 months, was arrested, charged with manslaughter and suspended from his job.
He was brought to trial several months later in Cambria County court and was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
He was sentenced to a term of three to 23 months in jail but remained out on bail while his attorneys filed an appeal.
LaPorta retained internationally known defense attorney F. Lee Bailey of Boston to handle his appeal after a citizens committee raised several thousand dollars for his legal costs.
Bailey joined Johnstown attorney Caram J. Abood, who was retained by Flood City Lodge 86, Fraternal Order of Police.
The case was eventually heard by the state Superior Court in Philadelphia and, a year and a half later, that court reversed the conviction, clearing LaPorta of blame in the shooting.
“These past months have been pure hell,” LaPorta said when he was told of the decision. He was reinstated onto the police force a few weeks later.
In January 2006, a guard at State Correctional Institution-Laurel Highlands was shot and killed by state police sharpshooters after he opened fire on officers with an assault rifle.
William Lee Leister, 38, was apparently distraught over the romantic rejection of a 21-year-old woman he had bailed out of jail the day before.
A 12-hour standoff started on New Year’s Eve after Leister forced a car off a road near Confluence, shot a passer-by three times and abducted the object of his affections.
Leister held police at bay at his home in Berlin, where he eventually let his kidnap victim go free.
After police fired tear gas into the home, Leister fired 19 rounds in three seconds from a Chinese assault rifle, hitting a state trooper who was wearing a bulletproof vest and injuring a neighbor.
In September of that year, Torone “Tu” Dixon was shot and killed in Cambria County Prison, where he awaited trial and faced the death penalty if convicted of murder.
Dixon was shot after he attempted to stab a prison guard with a homemade stiletto he had fashioned from a piece of metal from a broom.
The 2006 shootings were both determined to be justifiable.
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- Today's Thunder schedule
READY TO ROLL: Vendors prepped for rally
Food vendors, merchandise sellers and bar operators alike spent Wednesday afternoon turning downtown Johnstown into a vibrant hub for the thousands of motorcycle riders expected to roll into the city for Thunder in the Valley.
Thunder expected to draw little rain
Motorcyclists should encounter typical June weather when they ride into Johnstown for this year’s Thunder in the Valley.
Richland event gets head start
Hundreds of motorcyclists and others got a head start on Thunder in the Valley on Wednesday evening with Richland Bike Bash.
School safety targeted Measure would boost spending by 1,900%
A measure that would provide as much as $10 million in new grant dollars, including funding to help compensate local governments for placing police officers in schools, has been approved by a House education committee.
Janakovic named to fill deputy mayor position
Johnstown City Councilman Frank Janakovic is going to receive some mayoral training before likely taking over the job full time in January.
Flight 93 photo to sail with Somerset
Valencia McClatchey’s haunting “The End of Serenity” photograph will soon be enshrined aboard the USS Somerset.
Trial over death centers on ‘Elaine push’
The “Elaine push,” popularized in the 1990s television sitcom “Seinfeld,” kept the jury out of the courtroom and occupied the attention of a judge and two lawyers much of Wednesday morning on the opening day of the trial for a man who police said pushed his best friend, leading to that man’s death.
Humane society: Starving horses removed from farm
Seven emaciated horses were seized recently from a farm in Somerset County after authorities said they were found badly underweight and without food and water.
An eighth horse had to be put down because of its poor condition.
Suspect charged with 2nd diamond ring theft
The Johnstown man jailed on charges that he stole a $6,000 diamond ring from a store in The Galleria in Richland Township is accused of stealing another ring from a different store in the mall.
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