Police Officer Indicted for Allegedly Killing Good Samaritan

CENTER TOWNSHIP, PA – A grand jury in Pennsylvania has indicted a 37-year-old police officer for the alleged killing of a 48-year-old “good Samaritan” who was trying to assist a shooting victim in a Walmart parking lot. Off-duty Center Township Police Officer John J. Hawk, who was in plain clothes at the time, is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment, and perjury in the death of Kenneth Vinyard, according to authorities.

On the night of November 6, 2022, Vinyard was in the parking lot of a Beaver County Walmart when a shooting occurred, causing chaos. While the shooter was still at large, Vinyard attempted to show a responding officer something on his phone that he believed would help in capturing the suspect, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

Prosecutors allege that Hawk intervened when Vinyard interrupted an officer speaking to another witness. They assert that Hawk physically moved Vinyard by placing his hand on his arm. Vinyard protested and retreated, but Hawk responded by striking him in the chest and executing a leg sweep, causing Vinyard to fall and hit his head on the asphalt. He died upon reaching the hospital.

A forensic pathologist determined that Vinyard’s death was a result of cardiovascular disease exacerbated by Hawk’s actions. Prosecutors state that Hawk did not identify himself as a police officer, display any law enforcement credentials, or announce Vinyard’s arrest. As an off-duty officer in plain clothes, Hawk was not authorized to make arrests under the department’s policy.

During the investigation, it is alleged that Hawk lied under oath when testifying before the grand jury regarding the incident. Despite witness accounts and video footage, he claimed he identified himself as a police officer several times.

Michelle Henry, Attorney General, expressed the gravity of the situation, emphasizing that Hawk’s actions caused the death of an unarmed individual. She reiterated that upholding the law is paramount and that law enforcement officers should be held accountable for their actions.

Hawk’s defense attorney, Blaine Jones, described his client as shocked and disappointed by the indictment, asserting that Hawk was merely assisting his fellow officers in dealing with someone who did not comply with orders.

Hawk was arraigned on Wednesday, and his bail was set at $200,000. He is scheduled to appear in court on January 10.