A Pennsylvania teen-ager thought to have been killed by a state trooper's bullet actually committed suicide, autopsy results show. James Perloff Jr., 17, pressed a .32-caliber revolver against his right temple Feb. 14 and shot himself, Chief Medical Examiner James Benz ruled Tuesday. His two-page report surprised both police and Perloff's family.
A teen-age runaway traveling with Perloff told police that Perloff had threatened three times to kill himself if he were caught by police, the report says.
Investigators had first believed that Perloff was killed by a bullet from Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Wallace Dill's .357 Magnum revolver. But that bullet hit the right rear passenger window and burst into fragments.
"It's kind of a relief for the trooper," Highway Patrol Capt. Jack F. Harden said after learning of the autopsy findings. "But we still have to complete our internal investigation, so we can't really comment."
Dill had stopped Perloff for speeding on Interstate 95 south of Woolbright Road about 10 a.m. Feb. 14. When Perloff couldn't produce a driver license, Dill told the passenger, a 16-year-old girl, to drive. The girl drove away when a license check identified her as a runaway, leading Dill on a five-mile chase that ended when the car ran into a wall.
After the crash, Perloff leaned out of the passenger window and fired a shotgun at Dill, who shot back.
Perloff, an 11th-grader at East High School in West Chester, Pa., was wanted in Pennsylvania on kidnapping and attempted murder charges.