District Attorney John T. Adams announced Tuesday that he has determined that the actions of two Berks County Police Officers and two PA State Police Troopers on March 30, 2023, in the 900 block of Spring Street, Wyomissing Borough was a reasonable act of self-defense of another.
Adams says the officers and troopers involved were justified in employing deadly force against Vaughn T. Perkins to ensure the safety of themselves and other officers. As a result, the officers and troopers will not be charged with any criminal offenses in connection with the incident that day.
“Vaughn T. Perkins was on a violent crime spree. He was armed and dangerous and despite that fact, officers attempted to apprehend him peacefully. He failed to comply with their verbal commands, threatening the officers and causing them to use deadly force. While it is unfortunate that a life was lost, officers involved displayed courage for the protection of the public and each other” said District Attorney John T. Adams.
District Attorney’s Summary of Events
On March 30, 2023, at 6:11pm, the Pennsylvania State Police – Department Watch Center was notified by the U.S. Marshal’s Service of a subject who was entered into NCIC (National Crime Intelligence Center) and was wanted for arson in Camden County, New Jersey. The subject was identified as Vaughn T. Perkins, 53 years of age, operating a black 2016 Lexus NX 200T, bearing PA registration MBT5447.
Additionally, the Camden County, New Jersey Prosecutor’s Office – Homicide Unit was requesting a pick-up and hold for Vaughn T. Perkins for the arson and wanted for questioning in a double homicide that occurred on March 27, 2023. The alert also advised that Perkins is suspected of an additional double homicide in Philadelphia that occurred on March 30, 2023.
Perkins was considered to be armed and dangerous with prior assaults involving a weapon.
During the search for Perkins, the Deputy U.S. Marshal’s Eastern Pennsylvania Violent Crime Fugitive Task Force provided the PSP-Watch Center with tracing pings coming from Perkins’ personal cell phone. Those pings were distributed to PSP Troopers which eventually led them to Berks County. PSP provided the Berks County Department of Emergency Services with the BOLO information for Perkins and the updated ping information.
Subsequently at approximately 8:48 pm, Perkins’ Lexus license plate was captured on the Wyomissing Police Department’s license plate readers located within the Borough of Wyomissing. Patrol officers located the Lexus and attempted to conduct a traffic stop utilizing their emergency lights and audible sirens. The driver of the vehicle failed to stop, and a short pursuit ensued. Perkins drove his vehicle recklessly through the backyards of a residential area in the 900 block of Spring Street, Wyomissing Borough in an effort to escape apprehension. However, the Lexus struck shrubbery, a garden bed, and a woodpile, rendering the vehicle inoperable.
Then, law enforcement officers approached Perkins who was seated in the driver’s seat of the Lexus. Officers gave verbal commands for Perkins to surrender. Perkins failed to comply to the commands and raised a long rifle pointing it at the officers. Two Berks County patrol officers and two PSP patrol troopers discharged their firearms, striking Perkins multiple times.
No police officers from Berks County, PSP troopers, or civilians were injured in this incident. Patrol officers cautiously approached the vehicle and discovered that the driver was deceased.
Subsequently, Berks County Deputy Coroner Eric Graeff and Chief Coroner George Holmes arrived on scene. Graeff officially pronounced Perkins deceased and transported him to the Reading Hospital.
On Thursday, March 30, 2023, at approximately 9:15pm, Berks County District Attorney Detectives responded to the 900 block of Spring Street, Wyomissing Borough to investigate an officer involved shooting. The response by Berks County Detectives was pursuant to District John T. Adams’ protocol to have an independent investigative agency investigate police shootings.
On April 4, 2023, at 4:00pm, an autopsy was performed by Forensic Pathologist – Doctor Supriya Kurvilla. During the autopsy, multiple gunshot wounds were observed throughout the body of Perkins. Doctor Kurvilla preliminarily ruled that a single gunshot wound to the head was the fatal injury.
District Attorney John T. Adams concluded that the officers/troopers were reasonable in their belief that they and others were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury due to Perkins’ actions of refusing to comply with all police commands and by pointing a long rifle at the officers/troopers. Adams also said that it is also reasonable to believe that Perkins had the intent and means to inflict death or serious bodily injury to the officers/troopers, and the officers’/troopers’ use of deadly force under these circumstances was reasonable and therefore privileged under Pennsylvania Law.
Pennsylvania Law allows all persons, including police officers, to use deadly force in an act of self-defense and defense of others if the person reasonably believed that he/she faced an unlawful interference that created a risk of death or great bodily harm. If, as here, the person’s actions are privileged under the law of self-defense they cannot be convicted of any crime.