Manhunt ends with capture of New Kensington police murder suspect at Pittsburgh home

After a four-day manhunt involving several local and federal law enforcement departments, the suspect in the shooting death of New Kensington Police Officer Brian Shaw was taken into custody without incident early Tuesday morning.

A SWAT team moved in on a house on Ladora Way, a short alley in Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood section, and ordered 29-year-old Rahmael Holt to come out shortly before 5:30 a.m.

They were coming from left, right, behind the house, sides of houses,” witness Kristina Jackson said. “They were everywhere — U.S. marshals, feds, everybody.”

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Police have not said who lives in the home where Holt was found. An unidentified man was ordered to come outside with Holt, according to the witness.

Rahmael Holt arraignment
© Provided by Hearst Television, Inc. Rahmael Holt arraignment

“The officers told them to come to the doorway, and one guy came. He came off the porch. (An officer) told him to lift up his shirt and walk down the steps,” Jackson said. “He lifted up his shirt, walked down the steps, and he told him, OK, get down the steps, lock your hands behind your head. He did that. They pulled him over to the side of the SWAT truck. The other guy came out, they told him to do the same exact thing. He did it, locked his hands, and they took him too.”

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“I’m definitely relieved. It could have been way worse. If there was a lot of guns or anything, it could have been a very bad incident. Especially if he would have came out or resisted in any way shape or form, it could have been way worse.”

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An FBI evidence response team spent hours searching the house after Holt’s arrest. It was not clear if they found the gun that was used to kill Shaw.

Holt, of Natrona Heights, was arraigned in front of New Kensington District Judge Frank Pallone and denied bond. He was taken to the Westmoreland County Prison to await a preliminary hearing on charges of murder of a law enforcement officer and firearms violations.

Leishman Avenue in New Kensington
© Provided by Hearst Television, Inc. Leishman Avenue in New Kensington

During his arraignment, Holt said he wanted a private attorney. He did not respond to questions from reporters as police officers walked him out of the courtroom.

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Online dockets show that felony charges of hindering apprehension have been filed against Holt’s mother, Sherry Holt, 47, of East Pittsburgh, and his cousin, Marcel Mason, and Mason’s girlfriend, Aysa Benson, both 29 and of Duquesne. Police say all three were in contact with the suspect while he remained at large over the weekend.

Immediately following Shaw’s death, investigators were consumed with the task of finding Rahmael Holt. Police Chief Jim Klein said the department will now get back to normal business as it continues to deal with the loss of Shaw, 25, who had been on the force less than a year.

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“I want the city of New Kensington residents to know that soon they will be seeing us back on the street,” an emotional Klein said at a news conference announcing Holt’s arrest. “We will be the ones coming to your door and knocking when you’re reporting that barking dog complaint. We will be the ones coming and knocking on your door when you’re reporting any type of incident going on in the city. We will be back.”

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Police said that Shaw attempted a traffic stop on Leishman Avenue at about 8 p.m. Friday, which led to a foot pursuit of Holt, who they said was a passenger in the vehicle. Shots were fired during the foot chase, and Shaw was fatally wounded, police said.

Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said Holt was fleeing toward a parking lot when he fired about six shots, and Shaw, wearing a bulletproof vest, was shot multiple times. It doesn’t appear that Shaw returned fire, Peck said.

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The alleged driver, Tavon Harper, 27, left the scene and was later arrested at his home in New Kensington, police said. He faces drug and fleeing charges, but is not charged in connection with Shaw’s death.

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A police procession escorted Shaw’s body to Rusiewicz Funeral Homes of Lower Burrell, where visitation was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. A funeral Mass was set for 10 a.m. Wednesday at Mount St. Peter Church in New Kensington.

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“Thank you to the citizens of New Kensington. Our officers are dedicated to providing the best possible service to protect you and keep you safe,” Klein said. “There is no better example than Officer Brian Shaw, who gave his life serving his community. I promise you that our officers will continue to serve with the same honor that Brian did, the same dedication and professional service that you guys expect and you guys will receive.”

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