Our office sends our condolences to the family and friends of Officer Scott Bashioum of the Cannonsburg police who was killed early this morning while responding to a domestic violence call in Cannonsburg, Washington County, Pennsylvania. Bashioum and his partner were shot at by Michael Cwiklinski, who later took his own life and that of a woman who had an active Protection from Abuse Order against him. Neighbors were evacuated by a SWAT team, and the Allegheny County Bomb Squad was called in to search for hidden explosives as gas cans were found in the house and the suspect's car.
Following situations like this, many people wonder how this could happen when an active Protection from Abuse (PFA) order is in place. What people often forget is that a PFA Order, though a good step in protecting yourself from a domestic violence situation, is only a piece of paper, and can only do so much to protect you in the face of an abuser who is intent on harming you. Remember that a violation of a PFA order can lead to the defendant's arrest as well as him or her being held in criminal contempt of the order, which could lead to fines or jail time. However, these protects do not always do enough to deter abusers from continuing to engage in violence. Here are a few helpful tips to make sure you and others stay safe in cases of domestic violence:
1. Obtain a Protection from Abuse Order- On the weekends, in the evening, or during court holidays, an emergency PFA order can be obtained from a local magistrate or through night court. PFA offices in most Western Pennsylvania counties are open from 8:00am on weekdays. If you meet the statutes requirements, you can obtain a temporary order, and a final hearing will be scheduled within ten days to two weeks. This hearing could result in the entry of a final PFA order that could last up to three years.
2. Once you have obtained a PFA, make sure to keep a copy on you- Keep a copy in your house, car, or place of work. That way, you will always have a copy on you in case the abuser attempts to contact you and you need to seek assistance from law enforcement or security. Also provide a copy to your local police department so that they are aware that there is a history of domestic violence and will be prepared if they are called.
3. Always keep a cell phone on you- The beauty of technology is that you now can be in contact with police, family, friends or other people who can help you wherever you go. If you are contacted by someone against whom you have a PFA, make sure to contact local law enforcement and other helpers as soon as possible and keep the updated about what is going on.
4. Don't Escalate the Situation- Contact law enforcement as soon as you are contacted by the Defendant, contact authorities. Do not confront the person. Remain as calm as possible.
We hope that these helpful tips can keep tragic events like this from happening in the future.