A 63-year-old man died Wednesday afternoon after a scheduled eviction from a Pittsburgh home that had been in his family for decades turned into an active shooter incident lasting more than six hours.
Seven deputies from the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office arrived at 10:30 a.m. at a Garfield home on the 4800 block of Broad Street, between North Mathilda Street and North Millvale Avenue, to execute a court-ordered eviction of William Hardison Jr. He began shooting at the officers, prompting a massive response from federal, state and local law enforcement, with authorities warning nearby residents to stay away from the area or shelter in place.
Hardison and officers exchanged an enormous amount of ammunition, and Hardison shot down several small drones launched by police to get a better view of the home and the incident. Medics pronounced Hardison dead at 5:08 p.m., city officials said, although the manner of death was not immediately clear. No law enforcement officers were injured, aside from one sheriff’s deputy who had a “superficial” head injury requiring stitches.
Kevin Kraus, the county sheriff, said at a news conference that law enforcement gave Hardison “every opportunity” to come out of the home and calmly resolve the situation.
“We wanted to try and bring him out peacefully, to execute the order, but clearly that wasn’t in the cards today,” he said.
City police Chief Larry Scirotto said he didn’t think anything about the incident was “normal.”
“We want a peaceful conclusion — a surrender, in this instance. We use various methods to accomplish that surrender,” he said. “With every opportunity for surrender, we were met with gunfire.”
Court records first reported by WTAE-TV show a tangled ownership history over the home, which was purchased in 1998 by Joseph Hardison. No payments were made on the mortgage after he died in March 2021, and JPMorgan Chase moved in September 2022 to foreclose, claiming an unpaid balance of about $10,000, plus fees and interest.
The home was then purchased by current owner 907 East Street LLC, which has the same mailing address as a separate company known locally for fixing and flipping homes, this February for $25,000. A copy of the deed reviewed by the Union Progress shows it was signed by Hardison’s father, William Hardison Sr., who claimed Joseph Hardison had vested interest in the home in him.
The new owner then filed a civil suit in May against Hardison, alleging he’d been living there without paying rent and sought to have him evicted. Filings by the company claimed Hardison had broken into the home, and included various photos showing signs that read “no trespassing” and a handwritten message of “private property” written on part of the home.
Hardison appears to have filed a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in late March against Rushmore Loan Management Services, the California-based company that ultimately came to hold the home’s mortgage, claiming it was “trespassing” on “my property.” His filings included a printout from the website of an influential leader among sovereign citizens, or people who believe they are exempt from government regulation.
He requested “forma pauperis” status in the case, which would have waived any court administrative costs. Hardison claimed on his application that he had no money in cash or a bank account, and hadn’t earned any income over the previous year.
U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV dismissed the lawsuit the following week, writing in a three-page order that Hardison presented “no colorable legal claim.”
“In its current form, it is impossible for [Rushmore] to decipher the allegations against it, much less formulate an answer,” he wrote.
The home is near the busy Penn Avenue commercial district, as well as two hospitals — UPMC Children’s and West Penn — that deployed enhanced security procedures. Pittsburgh Public Schools said two schools were on lockdown due to the incident. Police helped rescue several people from nearby homes and got them to safety.
Pennsylvania State Police will lead the investigation into the incident, a spokesperson said.
This story was updated at 1 p.m. Thursday.