UPDATE: Bethel Park Man Sues Peters Township, Police Officer

The suit alleges misconduct by Peters Township police Officer Matthew Collins.

This story was updated at 4:29 p.m. Thursday.

A Bethel Park man this week has filed federal suit against and one of its police officers, alleging police misconduct.

According to federal court records, Steven Stiegel, who filed the suit Tuesday, said he was fox hunting with a friend, Nolan Majcher, on Jan. 30 on a piece of private property in North Strabane.

“The road where they parked is a dead end, several hundred yards away from any houses. Nolan Majcher was situated about 30 yards from his truck, scanning the woods, wearing hunting camouflage with his gun clearly visible,” court documents show.

Then, at about 11 p.m., they observed headlights coming down the road.

“The car was driven by Peters Township police Officer Matthew Russell Collins. Officer Collins did not identify himself as a police officer, but Nolan Majcher suspected that he might be associated with law enforcement because of his use of a spotlight.”

Majcher walked toward the car, his arms reportedly extended, “with his gun held in a vertical non-threatening position.”

That’s when a confrontation between the two men occurred, according to the records.

“Officer Collins then aggressively yelled, ‘Drop the weapon!’ and still did not identify himself as a police officer,” court records show.

The suit said Majcher complied with the officer’s request immediately, when the Collins again spoke up.

“’What the (expletive deleted) are you doing?’” court documents indicate the officer said.

That’s when—weaponless—Majcher reportedly held “both hands at shoulder height in order to signal his prone position.“

The man reportedly walked toward the car and office Collins so he “would no longer have to shout.”

That’s when court records show Collins again responded.

“Officer Collins yelled, again very aggressively, ‘Stay where you are or I’ll shoot you!’” the suit alleges.

That’s when Majcher explained that he and Stiegel were hunting, and that his friend was in the woods to the right of the officer.

“Officer Collins responded belligerently and inappropriately” as Majcher made his way to the officer’s vehicle, according to court records—with Collins training his gun on the man.

Stiegel walked out of the woods a little later, dropping his rifle.

But according to the suit, Collins “aggressively questioned and retained them, acted arrogantly and obnoxiously, and then left without issuing any sort of citation—because no laws were broken,” the suit indicates.

While the suit maintains that Steigel and Majcher were acting in accordance to the law, it claims Collins “was outside of the rubrics of the law. He illegally wielded a weapon against citizens and only their superior common sense prevented a catastrophe.”

The suit also alleges that Collins was in North Strabane at the time, which was out of his jurisdiction.

Stiegel said the incident caused him “physical manifestations and injury—and he had made a complaint to the .

In a letter dated Feb. 29, Peters police Chief Harry Fruecht wrote to Stiegel: 

"The investigation established that the conduct of the concerned employee was not contrary to department policy but disclosed training issues that will be addressed department wide. 

"Please be assured that we desire to provide the best possible police service and are appreciative when given the opportunity to clarify such matters. 

"Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. If you desire further information in regard to the investigation or disposition, please contact my office."

J March 30, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Jim, Please familiarize yourself with the Municipal Police Jusrisdiction Act. Also, this incident occured on North Spring Valley Road. This roads leads to the southern side of Peters Lake Park (Owned by Peters Township). Peters Township and North Strabane Township have an agreement that crimes that occur on this side of the lake will/can be enforced by both departments. Please get the true facts before posting about something you have no knowledge of.
Andrew B March 30, 2012 at 05:16 PM
J, seeing from your stance on this issue and the in-depth information you have provided, I would venture to guess that either you are a member of the Gestapo, a.k.a. Peters Twp Police Department, or within the ranks of township administration--I say this because nowhere in the court documents did it mention North Spring Valley Road as being the location of the incident so this makes it apparent that you have greater knowledge than the general public.... Now, regardless of what the Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act claims, does it make it right that a police officer approach individuals on private land with gun drawn and pointed at these people when there was no crime committed? Additionally, why would the officer continue to aim his gun when the hunters presented themselves in a non-threatening manner? It just sounds as if this is the same old misbehavior PTPD pulls and gets away with because of either their chief's negligence with his investigations or the chief's disinterest in pursuing appropriate action to discipline his cronies. -Andrew
Kim March 30, 2012 at 08:04 PM
I don't care where this incident occured, on private or public property. An officer witnessed a man carrying a weapon at 11pm. If he didn't stop and question him then I'd think he wasn't doing his job. Thank goodness it turned out to be "hunters". I would also imagine that the reason this officer pulled out his weapon is because he saw that they had weapons and didn't know what the heck they were doing walking around with guns at 11 at night! Too bad if their feelings got hurt or that the Bright Lights overstimunlated their eyes. Officer Collins saw something which he and any other sane person would view as being suspicious and he questioned them...that's his job.
Guy Fawkes USC March 30, 2012 at 08:47 PM
I commend law enforcement for their efforts; their job is very stressful with little reward. However I do not appreciate police over stepping their boundaries. I am disgusted with over zealous law enforcement. If you logically dissect the situation you will realize that the police officer put everyones life in jeopardy including his own. He never announced that he was a police officer, and drew his weapon. Luckily everyone walked away from this alive and uninjured. Simply seeing an armed person is no reason to draw your weapon on them. In PA it is legal to carry concealed with a permit, and open without. (esp. on private property) If they were assessed a threat why wasn't back up called. If the cop actually thought they were a threat, and continued to resolve the issue without back up he is going to get himself killed, but I highly doubt that he has that much bravado. It is far more likely that he knew they were no threat, and he was only flexing his muscles behind his badge to satisfy a damaged ego that probably goes all the way back to grade school. It is police officers like this that give cops a bad name.
Kim March 30, 2012 at 08:49 PM
JW, I never said that an Officer can draw his gun on anyone. But I did read the complaint and I feel that in this case Officer Collins was acting reasonably considering he was questioning 2 armed men. Remember it was 11 at night and he saw someone carrying a gun. If I had witnessed this I personally would have called the police. I believe he was acting appropriately by questioning the 2 armed men and yes since they had guns I feel he also had the right to protect himeself. He didn't know that they were hunting just that they were walking around with weapons. I understand your point but I just don't agree with you. And yes sir I do have very high regard for the law, I just don't believe the law was violated here.
Andrew B March 30, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Kim, the fact of the matter is that an officer must have probable cause to act in such ways. First, you are entitled to your opinion, however, a lot of your statement is assumption-based, i.e. little of what you said was actually raised in the documents above. The use of the light to hunt the foxes would have raised suspicion, yes, but if the officer would have been aware of game laws, then this situation may not have transpired the way it did. Sure he can question them, but was it necessary to continue to target them with his weapon when they posed no threat to him especially they complied with his direction? In the end, it's the officer's ignorance and arrogance that exacerbated this situation. Additionally, if it was such a life-threatening situation, did he call back-up? There doesn't appear to be any police report filed. Kim, your ignorance of the law and your willingness to accept what a police officer (and to make matters worse, a Peters police officer) as the God-given truth makes me feel sorry for you; I hope you are never put in the position many of Peters' residents have been in. Ultimately, Kim, my best suggestion for you is when you make a statement, make sure it's based on facts rather than your emotions.
Guy Fawkes USC March 30, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Kim, If a citizen acts like that they get thrown in prison. If a cop acts like that they get applause from mindless sheeple like yourself.
Guy Fawkes USC March 30, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Kim, your response is foolish at best. Legally speaking even if they weren't hunting it is still legal to walk around private property armed. What if they were the landowner would the cop have acted like this? I would think yes. If you have such high regard for the law maybe you should brush up on it a little. BTW It is obvious that you do not understand the environment these men were in. It is a private farm; not a suburban neighborhood. Police targeting you with a firearm, swearing, and intimidating you defiantly classifies as harassment.
SRK March 30, 2012 at 10:07 PM
"Gestapo, a.k.a. Peters Twp Police Department, or within the ranks of township administration".....".put in the position many of Peters' residents have been in"...By these statements, it's obvious what we're dealing with. I happen to live in Peter's and appreciate the protection, 15 yrs. worth.
Andrew B March 30, 2012 at 11:09 PM
SRK, it's not quite clear what you are stating. But yes, it may appear that you're being protected, however due to the low crime rate in Peters how much protection are you really getting to begin with? And with regards to being victimized, good for you that you have not been one of those residents, and hopefully you never will end up as such.
SRK March 31, 2012 at 12:01 AM
The picture that comes to mind is....a police officer @ 11pm in the dark approaches a man in a wooded area who is carrying a rifle. He begins to spout unprovoked profanity , to incite a confrontation, knowing there can be countless other rifle-bearing others in the woods. knowing this, he continues to waive his pistol, threatening to shoot this man bearing a rifle on private property. Remember, he is alone, with no backup. Bullies like to know they have the upper hand, a larger, stronger, or more in number than their prey. I doubt police enjoy a confrontation, especially when they don't know who, or what they are dealing with. Even bullies don't choose confrontations like this. Remember, it is easy to see who's side is posted here.
Andrea Bosco (Editor) March 31, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Hi JW - I plan on speaking with the chief or captain on Monday. I will update the site depending on what I learn—stay tuned. Also, just a reminder to everyone: We ask that you comply to our Terms of Use (http://peters.patch.com/terms), and use first and last names—we believe in transparency. Thanks!
Thomas J. Farnan March 31, 2012 at 01:45 AM
My first and last names are Thomas J. Farnan. Here is a great case discussing the laws at issue: http://www.aele.org/law/2004LRAPR/bvc.html If you call the chief, Andrea, I think you should also call Steven's attorney.
Guy Fawkes USC March 31, 2012 at 02:17 AM
Security From Searches and Seizures Section 8. "The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and possessions from unreasonable searches and seizures, and no warrant to search any place or to seize any person or things shall issue without describing them as nearly as may be, nor without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation subscribed by the affiant." Right to Bear Arms Section 21. The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned.
Guy Fawkes USC March 31, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Those come directly out of the PA constitution. I am interested to see the outcome of this situation. Hopefully the Rule of Law prevails.
Joan Q.Peters April 02, 2012 at 03:02 AM
Sandy K I agree with you there are always two sides to the story. Let's see the police report.
CHARLES M BOGDEN April 18, 2012 at 08:59 PM
I think police have too much power. They also think they are above the law. Why didnt the officer call for backup if it was so dangerous??? Also Kim as American Citizens we do not need a carring permit. We can carry any firearm we choose, its called OPEN CARRY.Cops should know this, they want too show force. Better wake up COPS, WE AS AMERICAN CITIENS ARE FED UP WITH ALL OF YOU. When the time comes and it will REMEMBER you COPS are out numbered. Thanks , Chuck Bogden , An American citizen who is fed up with our system.
Kim April 20, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Charlles, I don't remember stating that American Citizens need a permit to carry. The only thing I have said after reading the entire complaint is that I don't feel it was unreasonable for this officer to pull his weapon on these armed men who he was questioning 11 at night. I find it really ironic that the gentleman in this complaint wants a citizen review board and when I, a citizen, read his complaint and state I don't think the officer was wrong am called names and made out ot be foolish. Also, I find your last statement to the "Cops" to be threatening and disturbing.
SRK April 22, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Charles, what if "cops" said the same as you? "We're fed up". Just let you call to them if you were burglurized, or a victim of mugging, or auto theft. Too bad. Lucky for you the cops are above your level. Remember, you speak for yourself, I am not fed up with our Peter's township police.
Joe April 25, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Journalism again at its finest.LOL. Why is it news to report a one sided story when it involves a police officer. A court document means nothing. Frivolous law suits are filed every day! Lets take a minute and use some common sense here. Im sure Officer Collins did not stumble on a camouflaged man in the woods at nightime. Sure there's going to be a police report because somebody called. It then becomes his duty to investigate wether criminal activity is afoot. Have we forgotten that Officer Dryer was recently killed by an apparent normal citizen on a routine traffic stop. He even told Officer Dryer he had a gun, when asked. All within his constitutional rights! Right? OOOPS Officer Dryer was killed instantly because his guard was down. Who was Officer Collins approaching? An ARMED MAN IN CAMOUFLAGE. I'm guessing since its not a traditional hunting season Officer Collins had something else on his mind.
Joe April 25, 2012 at 01:36 AM
(Continued from above JOE) Now of course our citizen couldn't readily tell if it was a police officer with the spot light. I'm sure Officer Collins gave authoritative commands and maybe he slipped and used a cuss word or two. Some people get a little out of sorts when talked to like that but it is necessary at night with an armed person. Our citizen sure could see the officer with a gun but couldn't tell he was a police officer! How Silly and stupid does our ego bruised citizen think we are? This will all play out. Sure has all the earmarks of someone trying to get some fast cash! We only have one side. I only hope that this site will report when this suit is thrown out. I'm guessing you won't.
Sandy K April 25, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Thank you for the common sense post. Agree!
Sandy K April 25, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Please also enlighten me and all the rest as to what is so mysteriously taking place in Peter's, after all I am a resident here. I've lived here many years and haven't so much as received a traffic ticket ( yet I'm apparently ignorant of the law) and the police department is so crooked. Seems to me, you're the one with an imagination.
Sandy K April 25, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Jim, Your guess among other things is, of course wrong. I am not related to a police officer, am not myself one, but thanks for the compliment.I agree with Joe, as I stated before, one side of the issue is posted here. This is obvious. I also agree with Joe, that suing the township & officer is a quick way to get money.(Did you bother to read his post in it's entirety?) He posts: "This will all play out. Sure has all the earmarks of someone trying to get some fast cash! We only have one side ". Looks like you are the one showing your true colors. You post: "Where's the police report???" Yet you now argue for the "hunter's" side without waiting for the police report.
Joe April 25, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Poor Jim! He wants so badly to convict Officer Collins and the Peters Township Police Department based on a short one sided article. He wants it so badly that he is willing to convict based on generalities such as the mysterious law he does not cite, the corruption in a police department that he only seems to be privy to, and now he somehow thinks my logic dictates a gun should be drawn on every traffic stop! Well please enlighten me on the law you think you know so well based on the scanty facts of the one sided article. If you know so much about police corruption especially in the Peters PD this would be the perfect forum to enlighten us ignorant ones. As for the approach of our hunting citizen-one thing we do know from that lousy article is it was night and he possessed a gun. Far from the routine traffic stop. Well Jim, here's my true colors: I believe most police officers and departments are honorable and that they do a near impossible job given the threat of physical harm and morons filing law suits! I hope youre so fervent if this suit has no merit. going.
Steven Stiegel April 25, 2012 at 11:38 PM
I think Jim is referring to the Law my attorney referenced above.
Sandy K April 26, 2012 at 01:34 AM
The link you mention brings up some important points. The officer's side will help to clarify these very ones: (1) whether the police were aware of specific and articulable facts giving rise to reasonable suspicion; and (2) whether the degree of intrusion was reasonably related to the known facts. In other [*971] words, the issue is whether the police conduct -- given their suspicions and the surrounding circumstances -- was reasonable. (In this case mentioned on link)The court reasoned that drawing weapons and ordering the suspect to lie on the ground were actions reasonably necessary for officer safety based on the perceived threat.( Such is possibly the instance here. The officer felt the need to have his gun drawn and ready, being in a possible dangerous situation with two or maybe more, men carrying rifles.) In this case, he didn't cuff the men or frisk them. He simply questioned them, and let them go. It was dark, so the officer needed to assess the situation, but needed to be sure he was safe and simply took precautions. One could also wonder, if the officer were to tell his side of it. Did both men, after disarming, walk toward him in a threatening manner as if they had planned to jump him/cause harm? In which he ordered," stop where you are or I'll shoot." We will only know for sure when both sides are heard.
Johnny W July 09, 2012 at 08:19 AM
WWWAAAAHHHHHH, WWWAAAHHHHHHHHHH, The police officer shined a bright light in my eyes!!! The police officer swore at me!!!! The police officer scared me!!! WWWAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!
Gary A January 17, 2013 at 04:34 PM
I think anyone in the community who has had an interaction with officer collins would attest to the facts; he's disrespectful, he's unprofessional, he's a disgrace to our community.
FUNK DOC March 10, 2013 at 10:06 PM
Gary A I couldn't agree more!!


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