Joel Sansone, an attorney for the family of 48-year-old Kenneth Vinyard, told Newsweek that Vinyard was waiting in the store’s parking lot for his fiancée but went to help another individual who was shot during an altercation nearby. Once paramedics arrived at the scene, Vinyard stepped aside to give them space, Sansone said.
Police officers were also on scene, but an “apparently off-duty” officer who was not in uniform and did not identify himself as a member of law enforcement ordered Vinyard to step back. Vinyard, who has been identified by police, responded that he was there to help, but the man again ordered him to step back and threatened to arrest him, Sansone said.
Sansone, whose team has been taking statements from people who witnessed the incident, said that he was informed by an eyewitness that the man put an arm across Vinyard’s chest and “took him to the ground, landing on top of him.”
“It’s not just a push that got out of control,” Sansone said. “He took him to the ground, body slammed him to the ground.”
Vinyard’s fiancée began to administer first aid to him and give him chest compressions because he didn’t have a pulse, but paramedics at the scene ultimately took over. Because Vinyard’s condition was not stable, he was not able to be airlifted to a Level I trauma center in Pittsburgh and was taken to a local hospital instead. He died shortly thereafter because of his injuries.
Vinyard, a truck driver with three kids and two sisters, was loved by everybody and “known by his family to be the funnest guy in the world to be around,” Sansone said.
Despite a nationwide reckoning with police violence following the death of George Floyd in 2020, Sansone, a civil rights attorney, said that there has been no decrease in the number of people who approach him regarding how some police treat civilians.
“Police officers have to be held to the same standard, in fact a higher standard, than regular citizens,” Sansone said. “We give them the power to use deadly force, and they have to exercise that with responsibility. And when they don’t, we have to hold them accountable.”
Sansone has contacted a forensic pathologist to conduct an independent autopsy of Vinyard, and upon completing their investigation, he has the intention of filing an action against the officer in federal court in Pittsburgh claiming excessive force and violations of civil rights. He may also explore a lawsuit against the police department and municipality that employed him, he said.
Pennsylvania State Police said in a release that officers were called to the scene of a shooting in Beaver County on Sunday, and that Vinyard died “after being involved in an incident at the scene.”
“This investigation is in its early stages and will be updated when information comes available,” police added.
Newsweek reached out to Pennsylvania State Police for comment.
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