The father of a 12-year-old Pennsylvania girl who was killed while a constable was serving an eviction notice has been charged with criminal homicide in his daughter's death, prosecutors said.
Don Meyer allegedly pointed a loaded semi-automatic assault rife at the chest of Constable Clarke Steele as they argued over an order to vacate on January 11.
Steele fired one round, which struck the 57-year-old father in the arm and then pierced the chest of his daughter, Ciara, who was hiding behind him. She died at the scene.
She had been home from school that day because she was sick.
Prosecutors upgraded charges against Meyer on Thursday. He now faces counts including criminal homicide, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of children and illegal possession of weapons.
He is being held without bail in Pennsylvania's Perry County Jail and has pleaded not guilty.
Several eviction orders had been issued against Meyer, authorities said, and he had been notified by telephone that a constable was on the way to serve him with another notice. Meyer met the constable at the door of his apartment with the rifle slung over his shoulder, authorities said.
“The constable was there the day before to remind them that the next day was the day they had to be out,” family member Hope Cordas Rohde told INSIDE EDITION after the shooting. “Don had an arsenal of weapons and he had them ready. He wasn’t going to pay,” she said.
Perry County District Attorney Andrew Bender has said the constable acted in self-defense and will not be charged in the shooting. The officer has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
By law, Meyer was not allowed to possess firearms because he had previously been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility, authorities said. Constables who responded to the shooting said they confiscated five weapons at Meyer's home.
Ciara's family blames her father for her death and they support the district attorney's decison to prosecute him for homicide.
“I think he is deserving of every single charge,” uncle Jason Gehman told ABC 27.
Ciara's grandmother, Alice Gehman, agreed. "I hope he never gets out," she told the station. "Because if he does, we are in trouble."
Fighting back tears, family members recounted how they recently sat down with constable Steele after he requested a meeting with Ciara's kin.
The officer is distraught over her death, they said.
“He just needed to have some kind of closure - that we don’t blame him for this,” Alice Gehman said. “It went wonderful and this man has so much pain, I cannot even explain it to you.”
The grandmother said she wrapped her arms around the officer.
“When I was holding him and he was saying how sorry he was, I said ‘How are you?’ And he said, ‘I can’t breathe.'''
She told him, "Just slow down, because everyone is having trouble breathing, believe me.”