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‘Sovereign citizen’ shooter dead after 6-hour gun battle with police

 August 24, 2023

A 63-year-old grandfather, William Bill Hardison, was confirmed dead after a six-hour armed conflict with Pittsburgh police over an impending house eviction, as the Daily Mail reported.

Authorities say over a hundred rounds were fired during the confrontation, which took place at a home on Broad Street in Garfield, at a property previously owned by Hardison's late brother.

Reports from WPXI-TV identified Hardison as a former serviceman and an adherent of the "Sovereign Citizen" ideology. Individuals within this ideology typically believe federal or state laws don't bind them.

Escalation of Events

Authorities were initially present at the residence to enforce an eviction notice. However, when Hardison barricaded himself inside the property around 11 a.m., SWAT teams were called to the scene. The standoff intensified as Hardison continued to exchange fire with the police.

Around 4:40 p.m., after an intense session of gunfire, a police drone discovered Hardison severely injured inside the house. Soon after, the news of his passing was confirmed, as CBS News reported.

Larry Scirotto, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chief, expressed that the police hoped for a peaceful resolution, but each attempt was met with resistance from Hardison. His heavily armed state only made matters more challenging.

Community and Family Reaction

Hardison's son, also named William, was present during the standoff and pleaded for his father to surrender, emphasizing that his family loved him.

Another family member, Marlene Jones, shared her grief about Hardison's deteriorating mental health over the past year. She highlighted his brother's death's emotional toll on him, the complexities surrounding the property ownership, and Hardison's resistance to eviction.

However, the local community had mixed feelings about Hardison. While some family members remembered him fondly, neighbors painted a picture of a man prone to violent tendencies.

Hardison also had a past criminal record and had previously pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm without a permit, as reported by local news outlet WTAE, resulting in two years of probation.

Property Disputes and Legalities

Upon Hardison's brother's passing, the house went up for a tax sale and was eventually acquired by an LLC for $25,000 in March.

Following the property purchase, an eviction notice was served in May, given Hardison's alleged refusal to pay rent. Leading up to the fatal event, representatives from the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office attempted to serve this eviction notice.  Court documents indicate that the property has been the subject of at least nine hearings.

The Day of the Standoff

As events unfolded, witnesses reported a chaotic scene. One account detailed police efforts to forcefully enter the house using a sledgehammer.

The subsequent gunfight was intense, and according to one estimate, hundreds of shots were exchanged. Police even utilized drones for tactical advantage, though these, too, faced gunfire from Hardison.

Residents nearby were advised to stay indoors and call 911 for evacuation assistance. Schools and hospitals in the vicinity went on lockdown as a precaution.

Statements from Authorities

Police Chief Larry Scirotto reiterated the challenges they faced during the confrontation and praised the coordination and preparedness of the police force. He added that while they are trained for such scenarios, they are always unexpected and unprecedented.

Following the incident, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey released a statement calling for prayers for the Garfield community. He thanked all the law enforcement units and the trauma response team for their relentless support during the crisis.