A Campus Police officer was hospitalized after a vicious hand-to-hand fight with a student early Sunday morning in a Living/Learning Center stairwell, according to police.
Associate Chief Eric Zangaglia entered the LLC shortly after 1 a.m. to check an activated emergency phone. When he descended the building’s center stairwell, he noticed a group of students, one of whom was holding a beer can, police said.
It was there, police said, that he encountered 20-year-old Matthew Sweeney III, an LLC resident from Belle Vernon.
When Zangaglia told Sweeney to step toward the stairwell, his friends allegedly fl ed the scene, leaving Zangaglia to order Sweeney to provide identification. Sweeney claimed he wasn’t a Pitt-Johnstown student – when Zangaglia questioned him further, Sweeney allegedly tried to flee.
Zangaglia then grabbed Sweeney’s shirt, and the two grappled in a stairwell doorway, police said.
Sweeney allegedly “picked Officer Zangaglia up,” according to police, and threw him onto the stairs.
The two exchanged punches, police said, at which point Sweeney allegedly choked Zangaglia while on the floor.
As Sweeney choked Zangaglia, the officer drew his handgun and threatened to shoot his assailant, according to police. Only then, police said, did Sweeney withdraw for a moment.
As soon as Zangaglia holstered his handgun, Sweeney allegedly renewed the attack, punching him as the officer held him by his belt.
Zangaglia drew his pepper-spray canister, spraying Sweeney until the student managed to break free, police said.
Zangaglia saw Sweeney flee out the LLC and toward the soccer field but didn’t apprehend him, police said.
Zangaglia suffered facial injuries and a broken right thumb during the fight, requiring hospitalization, according to a criminal complaint fi led by Campus Police Officer W. Daniel Dunn.
LLC residents who know Sweeney said police officers were dispatched to the building and remained there for much of the night.
Early Sunday morning, just a few hours after the alleged assault, officers entered Sweeney’s room and apprehended him, the LLC residents recalled. Lyndsay Reilly, the resident assistant on duty the night of the alleged attack, said she hadn’t heard of the incident as of Sunday afternoon.
Charged with a series of crimes including aggravated assault, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, Sweeney secured $100,000 bond and was released from jail Sunday.
Friends said he was expected return to campus soon after. He faces a preliminary hearing Nov. 1 at District Magistrate Max Pavlovich’s office.
Campus Police Chief Kevin Grady said Zangaglia is in good condition and is expected to return to light duty soon.