Officer cleared in fatal shooting of knife-wielding Bucks man

Posted: March 29, 2012

A Middletown Township police officer has been cleared in the fatal shooting of a knife-wielding man in what the Bucks County district attorney called "a matter of suicide by cop."

Michael Devine, 64, lured Patrolmen Joseph Schuck and Joseph Buckley to his home with a 911 burglary call about 3:30 a.m. on Feb. 23, District Attorney David Heckler said Wednesday.

Wearing a hooded sweatshirt and brandishing a large carving knife, Devine approached the officers, yelling, "I'm going to kill you," and ignoring orders "to get down on the ground," Heckler said.

When Devine got within a few feet of Patrolman Joseph Buckley, the officer shot him once in the hand and chest, Heckler said. The retired Neshaminy School District custodian died a short time later at St. Mary Medical Center.

County detectives investigated the case, and Heckler on Tuesday mailed the Middletown police chief a letter of his finding that the shooting was justified.

"There was no indication of a break-in" at Devine's home off West Lincoln Highway, Heckler said. "The purpose [of the 911 call] was to precipitate a confrontation."

After the shooting, relatives told police that Devine had been depressed and had been suffering from back pain, Heckler said. A son said he had removed a handgun from the house, where Devine lived alone, "because there was some concern that he might be suicidal," the district attorney said.

One of Devine's sons is Bristol Borough Councilman Tony Devine, who also is a special-education teacher at Maple Point Middle School. Another son is Neshaminy boys' varsity basketball coach Jerry Devine.

The county coroner's toxicology report has not been completed, Heckler said, but Devine did not show signs of drug or alcohol intoxication that night.

During the investigation, detectives talked to Devine's relatives and gave them the recording of the 911 call, Heckler said.

Heckler did not notify them of his finding that the shooting was justified "because he was not a victim of a crime," the district attorney said. "If he had survived, he might have been prosecuted for filing a false police report or possibly attempted suicide."


Contact Bill Reed at 215-801-2964, wreed@philly.com, or follow @breedbucks on Twitter. Read

his blog, "BucksInq," at www.philly.com/bucksinq.

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