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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fugitive Task Force Officer Fatally Shoots Rapist Armed With Pellet Gun

     In 2014, 47-year-old Leslie Sapp III, a resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, found himself on the U.S Marshal's Office Top 20 Wanted List. On July 21, 2014, an Allegheny County prosecutor had charged Sapp with rape, statutory sexual assault, and related lesser offenses.

     Mr. Sapp stood accused of having sex numerous times with an underage girl at his home between April 2011 and May 2014. The victim, just 11-years-old when first assaulted, didn't report Sapp out of fear of him. She also kept quiet because she didn't want to get in trouble with her mother. On many occasions Sapp provided the girl with marijuana.

     At the time the charges were filed, Sapp's whereabouts were unknown. The U.S. Marshal's Western Pennsylvania Fugitive Task Force took charge of the investigation to locate and bring this man to justice.

     Leslie Sapp had a criminal history going back to the 1980s when the authorities in Philadelphia charged him with a series of crimes that included aggravated assault, robbery, and various gun violations. Finally, in 1993, following a conviction in Philadelphia, a judge sent him to prison where he served ten years of a ten to twenty year sentence. After getting out in 2003, Sapp continued to get into trouble by violating the terms of his parole.

     In 2013, Sapp pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited firearm. The judge sentenced him to three years probation.

     At six-forty-five Tuesday morning January 6, 2015, a Pennsylvania State Trooper, a deputy with the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office, and other members of the fugitive task force, showed up at Sapp's house in the Knoxsville section of Pittsburgh. When the officer encountered the fugitive, he displayed a handgun in a threatening manner. One of the officers responded by shooting him to death. (The identify of the officer who shot him has not been made public.)

     As it turned out, Mr. Sapp had been in possession of an air gun that shoots pellets. Because it was black and didn't have the orange marker, the gun looked real. According to a law enforcement spokesperson, Leslie Sapp had held the gun "in a manner consistent with being used against a police officer."

     To threaten a police officer with a pellet gun is no different than wielding a firearm that shoots bullets. Mr. Sapp must have known this and was willing to accept the consequences. 

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