No decision about coroner’s inquest yet in death of Greensburg woman shot by police

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Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha said Friday he will decide later whether to hold an inquest into the death of a Greensburg woman who was fatally shot by police this week.

After county detectives are finished investigating, Bacha said he will confer with District Attorney John Peck to decide if such a hearing is necessary in the death of Nina C. Adams, 47.

Bacha has held coroner’s inquests since taking office in 2002 into several past deaths caused by a police officer’s gun when the circumstances warrant one. An inquest is a hearing during which testimony is taken to determine how a person died and, if an officer was involved, whether the use of lethal force was justified or if homicide charges are warranted.

“I’ve done it on most of them, not all of them,” Bacha said.

On other occasions, an inquest wasn’t needed because the facts were “blatantly obvious,” he said.

Adams was holding a gun when she was fatally shot by a Greensburg officer Wednesday about 3:30 p.m. on her Grant Street porch. Family members said she had mental health issues. Police said there is no video of the shooting.

Neighbors called 911 after hearing gunshots and seeing Adams shooting a handgun in the road. One round shattered the glass front door of a Harvey Avenue office building.

Four Greensburg officers arrived. One hit her with nonlethal beanbags, but she remained standing with the gun, investigators said. A second officer opened fire. Adams later died from gunshots to the torso and shoulder at Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital.

Her death was ruled a homicide.

The officer who pulled the trigger is not on patrol but working on paperwork, said Capt. Robert Stafford. Investigators declined to identify the officers involved. No one else was hurt.

The situation was an unusual one for Greensburg, Stafford said. It’s rare for any type of shooting in the city, involving police or otherwise.

“We haven’t had anything like this,” Stafford said.

There have been 11 or 12 fatal shootings by police in the county since 2002, Bacha said. He has held nine or 10 inquests, one of which involved a death that was not the result of police involvement. All of the deaths that did involve police were ruled justified homicides, Bacha said.

The most recent inquest was for Scott Murphy, 46, who was killed during a 17-hour standoff with police in Latrobe on July 19, 2013. A state trooper was hurt during a gun battle with the suspect. His death was ruled a justified homicide.

Family and neighbors described Adams as quiet, gentle and well-loved. An aunt said Adams, who earned a history degree from Seton Hill University in 1996, had mental health struggles.

The last time a person was fatally shot by a police officer in Greensburg was 10 years ago when a state police sharpshooter killed Joseph Briggs, 22, of Maryland, during a standoff. Briggs, a Seton Hill University student, had fired at least 42 shots on Feb. 15, 2009, at his roommates, police officers and cars and homes near his Concord Avenue apartment.

That shooting was ruled justified.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, or via Twitter .