About Site


Remembering Chief McIntire
Written January 15, 2023


According to the lead investigators in the case, the Allegheny County Police, here's what happened.  Many of the images below are from Trib Total Media's Valley News Dispatch.

In this aerial view, Route 28 is the expressway in the top left corner.  Shortly before noon on New Year's Day 2023, a Pennsylvania state trooper saw a car heading towards Pittsburgh at a high rate of speed.  That happens more often than we'd like.  But the driver, who turned out to be 28-year-old Aaron Swan, was wanted for a probation violation involving weapons.  He very much did not want to be stopped.  The trooper got his license plate number and gave pursuit for nearly eight miles, finally breaking off the chase out of fear for the safety of other motorists.  Area police departments were advised.

Shortly before noon the next day, Monday, an officer spotted a car fitting the description of Swan's at the Sheets convenience store indicated by the green basket in the top right corner.  He tried to detain Swan and a passenger, but they drove off.  A short time later the car was found abandoned in Brackenridge.

Brackenridge, you say?  That's the little borough of less than 3,200 people outlined in yellow in this image.  (Around here, there's a different municipality every mile or so up and down the Allegheny River.)  A wooded slope bisects the borough's 358 acres between a flat “downtown” area next to the river and a residential “heights” area where I live.  My apartment's location is marked by the yellow pentagon.  The red line traces Pacific Avenue; remember that for later.

Early on that afternoon of January 2, I was driving toward Sheets on Freeport Road when I met two police cars, lights flashing, one zipping past the other.  Usually this sort of thing means they've been summoned to a traffic accident somewhere.  I thought nothing of it.

Around two o'clock, Swan was located near the western edge of Brackenridge.  Police from several local departments started searching the area on foot.  One of them was 46-year-old Brackenridge Police Chief Justin McIntire.

At three o'clock, residents reported two suspicious males near the abandoned car.  

At 4:15, McIntire radioed that he'd found Swan and was chasing him.  This took place in the area I've tinted blue.  Moments later, residents called 911 to say they'd heard shots fired.  More police units converged on the area, and at 4:29 they found McIntire's body between two homes on Third Avenue.  Apparently ambushed, he had died of a gunshot wound to his head.

Swan ran up the hill in my general direction.  Along Morgan Street, which runs only a block from my apartment, police discovered a man wrestling a gun away from the fugitive.  He had tried to steal a vehicle from the man's driveway.  Swan then reached into a bag he was carrying, pulled out another gun, and began exchanging gunfire with the police.  One of the shots struck a Tarentum officer in the leg, but the fugitive escaped, still on foot.

The word went out that an armed man was being pursued and two officers had been shot, one fatally.  Police from departments all over Allegheny County, including a SWAT team, converged on the scene to assist.

I was aware of none of this until around 5:00, when I began watching the local evening newscast and was startled to see a live report from just down the street. 

There were flashing lights everywhere.  All three Pittsburgh stations were soon reporting live from the scene.  Then the TV reported that another incident had taken place on Pacific Avenue in Brackenridge, where a man entered a home through an unlocked door, robbed the residents of their cellphones, and fled in their silver 2014 Subaru Legacy. 

Now they didn't report the exact address where the robbery took place, but my nearest neighbor on that quarter-mile street parks his car only 150 feet from where I park my 2014 Subaru Legacy.

That's just a little too close to home.  My apartment door was locked as usual; for the first time, I also deployed the deadbolt.  I turned off my lights and stayed glued to my three TV screens, one on each local channel.  But by then, Swan was on his way back toward Pittsburgh.

At 6:22 that evening, 18 miles from the shootings, Pittsburgh police spotted the Subaru in the Larimer section of the city and tried to pull it over.  However, Swan again fled and a police pursuit began.  Swan crashed the car in the Brushton section and ran into the woods, then toward an apartment complex.  He fired at police and they returned fire, killing him.

At his feet was a Glock 9mm pistol with an extended magazine, altered to allow it to fire fully automatic.  Four other guns had been found in Brackenridge.

I didn't know Chief McIntire, but countless people did in this little town where he grew up, and memorials began to appear everywhere. 

For example, folks bought blue bulbs for their porch lights. 

Ed Kress, a former Allegheny County councilman, has been making “We Support Our Police” signs for the past three years “to make sure officers knew they were being appreciated.”

He delivered 650 signs to local municipal buildings.  As shown here, the Harrison Township public works crew planted 200 of them all along Freeport Road.

Innocent people are murdered every day, but folks seem to take it much more seriously when a first responder is killed in action.  This is especially true if they themselves are first responders.

The final rites on January 11 resembled the funeral for a monarch.  The flower-topped casket was carried to the church in an antique caisson drawn by two black horses, their hooves painted blue.

Too large for our little borough, the services were held across the river at Mount Saint Peter Roman Catholic Church.  Once I  operated a single camera in the choir loft there for our live cable TV coverage of the Midnight Mass.  That was 40 years ago on Christmas Eve. 

This service would likewise be telecast live using a single camera, but it was broadcast to the entire Pittsburgh metropolitan area.  I watched from home.

The church, another next door, and the lawn between were filled with mourners, including more than a thousand brother officers from as far away as New York and Chicago and Dallas.

We all have different uniforms on, different cars, but at the end of the day, it's all one team,” Pennsylvania State Trooper Rocco Gagliardi told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  “When we lose one of our members, we're all there for one another and for that fallen member.”

Greensburg Diocese Bishop Larry Kulick, the son of another police chief, remembered another officer's murder more than 40 years ago.


Bishop Kulick, a child then, asked his grandmother why people in blue risked their lives to protect people they don't even know.  She answered that the police know they must do good.  When good people do nothing, evil will continue to grow.

After the service concluded, an armada of police cars followed the hearse for the entire seven-mile procession from the church to the cemetery.  Citizens lined both sides of the road, while I watched the “Chopper 11” coverage online.


Retired barber Victor Quinio (right) lives in Harrison Township, where the cemetery is located.  He knew Justin McIntire and his family.  “I used to cut his hair when he was little,” Quinio told the local newspaper.

Twenty minutes after the helicopter had shown the lead cars reaching the gravesite, I could still hear sirens wailing as the trailing cruisers made the turn from Morgan Street (one block west of me) onto Freeport Road (one block north).

“What impresses me,” said Mr. Kress, “is that residents in the area have such patriotism for the police and the communities as a whole.” 



Back to Top
More FamilyMore Family