Manhunt continues; Friends, family mourn
Cpl. Joseph Pokorny was many things — a fearless policeman, an avid hunter, a private person who would give a friend the shirt off his back — but most of all, he was a devoted father.
“He cared for his kids more than anything in the world,” said his brother, Frank Pokorny, wiping tears from his eyes yesterday outside his family’s home in Beaver County.
Pokorny, 45, of Moon, a 22-year state police veteran, was shot and killed while making a traffic stop early yesterday near the Rosslyn Farms on-ramp to the Parkway West in Carnegie.
“He was a dedicated trooper and devoted father to his two children,” said Robinson District Judge Carla Swearingen, one of the small but trusted circle of people Pokorny called friends.
Pokorny opted to work a steady midnight shift so he could be home during the day with his son, Joseph, 17, known as Jake, and daughter, Alexandre, 15, known as Ali.
“If he gave you his word, he stood by it. His biggest priority was his children. Everybody that knew him liked him,” Swearingen said.
Pokorny was nearly 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, but he was small in childhood and learned at an early age how to defend himself from larger bullies, Frank Pokorny said.
“He was extremely fearless. He didn’t take anything from anybody. He was a very hard-nosed person,” his brother said.
Joseph Pokorny received a letter of commendation for bravery after an incident on July 8 when state police began chasing a man suspected of drunken driving and pulling a gun on a trooper.
When troopers tried to end the high-speed chase by putting spike strips on the Beaver Valley Expressway, the motorist turned around and began driving the wrong way.
When Pokorny saw the motorist trying to ram the side of a police car, he steered his cruiser into the path of the speeding car, hitting it head-on in a fiery collision.
“He saved one of our guys by taking on the other guy head-on,” said state police Cpl. Kenneth Yuhas, one of several troopers offering condolences and support yesterday to Pokorny’s parents, Florence and Joseph R. Pokorny, in Center Township.
“He actually put his life on the line by ramming the vehicle and stopping (it),” said Col. Jeffrey Miller, the head of the state police. “He was a very aggressive and conscientious corporal, always out there backing up the troops.”
Pokorny, who joined the state police in 1983 after graduation from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., spent much of his career working dangerous undercover narcotics and vice details, his brother said.
In 1990, he joined the state police Tactical Narcotics Team based in Greensburg, Westmoreland County.
“He would never tell me stories about it except that it was scary and it was ugly,” Frank Pokorny said. “(Other troopers) tell me he was always the first one through the front door with the battering ram.”
Frank Pokorny, known as “Fearless Frank” for his special teams play for the Steelers in 1985 and ’86, made no effort to hide his pain and tears.
“He was my older brother. I loved and miss everything about him.”