Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force fatally shoots man in Knoxville
Leslie Sapp was hiding from charges of raping a little girl for three years when he jumped out in front of the men who’d come to Knoxville to arrest him Tuesday morning. He assumed a firing stance and pointed what appeared to be a gun at them, officials said.
Members of the U.S. Marshals Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force fatally shot Sapp, 47.
Sapp’s weapon, they later learned, was an air pellet gun.
Pittsburgh police, who were not involved in the shooting, are investigating.
“The officers fired to defend themselves. That’s really as much as I can share at this time,” Pittsburgh police Chief Cameron McLay said at a news conference.
Sapp died of gunshots in the torso, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said.
U.S. Marshal Steven Frank said this is the first shooting and the first fatality since he became the marshal for Western Pennsylvania three years ago. His staff only recalls one other shooting by the task force, a fatality in Johnstown in 2000.
Frank declined to comment further, saying his office’s policy is to allow the Pittsburgh police to conduct the investigation into the shooting.
“We want to let the process work,” he said.
Members of the fugitive task force — including a Pennsylvania State Police trooper and an Allegheny County Sheriff’s deputy — arrived at Sapp’s home on Redlyn Street shortly after 7 a.m. to serve an arrest warrant, officials said.
According to court documents and a marshals alert, Sapp was wanted for repeatedly raping a girl during a three-year period since before she was 10 years old.
State court records indicate Sapp, who was originally from Philadelphia, had a long criminal history, most recently pleading guilty to a felony firearms charge in October 2013, for which he was sentenced to three years’ probation.
Officials said members of the task force went into the house and ordered Sapp, who was at the top of the stairs, to show his hands, but he instead jumped out with what looked like a gun, took a shooting stance and pointed it at them, officials said.
At least two, and possibly three officers, fired at Sapp, officials said.
It is not clear whether Sapp fired his air gun at the officers. McLay declined to say whether the law enforcement officers who shot Sapp would be placed on leave while his department investigates the shooting.
Authorities issued the arrest warrant for Sapp in July on charges of rape, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, statutory sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of a minor.
The girl told police that Sapp, a friend of her family, molested her at least five times between April 2011 and March 2014. The assaults usually occurred in her aunt’s home, as well as in a car and in the home on Redlyn Street, according to the criminal complaint.
The girl told police she was reluctant to report the assaults because she was afraid of Sapp and didn’t want to get into trouble with her mother.
Sapp had been in and out of state prison since he was in his early 20s, a Department of Corrections spokeswoman said.
Sue Bensinger said he had been incarcerated on and off since 1990 on parole violations and charges of receiving stolen property and robbery. She said the last time the state prison system had anything to do with Sapp was when he was paroled in 2008.
Margaret Harding and Tony Raap are staff writers for Trib Total Media.