The former head of the Easton police Special Weapons and Tactics team testified for about two hours Tuesday before a grand jury probing the fatal shooting of a SWAT officer and a burglary inside police headquarters.
Though he no longer works for the department, former Capt. John J. Mazzeo testified longer than four city police officers who also were subpoenaed to testify Tuesday.
Mazzeo, who oversaw the SWAT team from 1991 until 2004, is suing the city, the mayor and his cousin, Police Chief Stephen A. Mazzeo, who he claims forced him out of the department shortly after becoming chief in 2004.
The federal lawsuit alleges John Mazzeo was forced out of the department because he supported Mayor Phil Mitman's opponent in the 2003 election, a charge the chief has denied. Mazzeo's lawsuit is the latest in a string of problems in the department over the last year.
Mazzeo, who became a part-time police officer in Wilson on June 13, declined to talk about his testimony as he left Strawberry Square in Harrisburg with Patrolman Steven Parkansy and Lt. Michael Orchulli. Parkansy, a former lieutenant who once headed the detective unit, and Orchulli also declined to talk about their testimony.
"I can't comment on the questions that were asked," Mazzeo said.
The jury also heard testimony from Lt. David Hess and Sgt. Matthew J. Lohenitz. With the exception of Mazzeo everyone else who appeared before the panel testified for about an hour.
The grand jury, which will hear more testimony from city police Thursday, was in session virtually the entire day Tuesday. The panel is probing the March 25 shooting of Jesse Sollman and the break-in inside the chief's executive office suite on July 8, three days before the first day city police were scheduled to testify before the grand jury. Police have said whoever pried open a filing cabinet in the office riffled through a file for Sollman, whose shooting death is the subject of an internal affairs investigation.
Matthew Renninger, the officer whose gun, Easton officials have said, killed Sollman inside a gun cleaning room, has been on paid leave since the shooting.
On Thursday, the grand jury is expected to hear testimony from ranking members of the department, including Chief Mazzeo, Capt. Scheldon M. Smith, Capt. Michael R. Gibiser and Lt. Barry Golazeski, the head of the detective bureau, who took pictures of the shooting scene.
Detective James Krome and Detective Joseph Nunes, who originally investigated the filing cabinet break-in, also are scheduled to testify Thursday.
Last month, the grand jury heard testimony from eight SWAT team members. Lt. Scott Casterline, Sgt. John Remaly, motorcycle officer Timothy Lambert, K-9 officer Brian T. Herncane, Easton FOP President Dominick Marraccini and officers David Beitler, Robert C. Weber and Matthew Gerould were the first group to appear before the panel.
The grand jury, which gives prosecutors the power to compel witnesses to testify under oath, will determine if criminal charges are warranted in Sollman's death. Its investigation is expected to take several months.
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