LEBANON CO. Pa. (WHTM) – The Lebanon County District Attorney’s office says the May 3, 2023 shooting of a man by a private citizen was “justified” use of deadly force.

Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf says Thomas Vance, 33, was fatally shot by a private citizen while attempting to recover personal items after being paroled from county jail.

Graf says Vance approached a home and had a confrontation with the person who had possession of his belongings. Vance approached the citizen and “braced for a fight,” according to Graf.

Vance and the citizen took several swings and lunges toward each other before Vance reached for a pipe on the ground. After a struggle, Vance struck the citizen over the head with the pipe.

The citizen was able to retrieve their handgun and pointed it in Vance’s direction. According to Graf, Vance “taunted him, chased him, and continued to aggressively hold onto the black pipe.”

Graf says the citizen told Vance to get away from him several times before shooting him once in the upper torso.

Vance retreated with a companion before collapsing and passing away. The citizen called 911 and remained on the scene for police.

Police reported lumps on the citizen’s head consistent with being struck by a pipe. According to Graf, video showed the incident, including the citizen being struck with the pipe.

Graf says the incident falls under “Castle Doctrine” where special protections are given for deadly force when a citizen is in their residence.

“Any loss of life is tragic, said Graf. Families are left without their loved ones. In this instance, the fatality is especially tragic as it was wholly avoidable. Had the decedent chosen a lawful route to reclaim his property, had he not approached a second time aggressively, had he at any moment walked away in lieu of escalating the situation, the citizen would not have utilized his firearm. The video makes it clear the citizen resorted to the gunshot only after the citizen undertook multiple efforts to make the decedent leave his property and leave him alone. In the heat of the moment, the decedent chose to pursue and give chase. The citizen acted lawfully, but regrettably, in the death of the decedent.”

The incident was investigated over several months by the Lebanon County Detective Bureau and Lebanon City Police Department.