No charges for Kannapolis firefighter in deadly shooting

Published 1:06 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2015

By Shavonne Walker

CONCORD — A Kannapolis firefighter who shot and killed another man during an altercation April 30 will not face charges, authorities said today.

Investigators determined Ryan Cochran was acting in self defense when he fatally shot David Pittarelli Jr. of Charlotte, who was the aggressor and may have mistaken Cochran and his girlfriend for other people.

Cabarrus County District Attorney Roxanne Vaneekhoven and Concord Police Chief Merl Hamilton announced the decision at a news conference.

The decision comes two weeks after the shooting where Pittarelli, 33, was shot multiple times by Cochran, who was returning home from a baseball game with his girlfriend, Jessica Troutman.

Hamilton, flanked by investigators, spoke this morning during a press conference about the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Cochran, 22, of Concord, and Troutman were traveling on Concord-Salisbury Road toward Concord in his red pickup when they were followed by a Cadillac driven by Pittarelli. The vehicle followed the couple for several miles, and authorities say Cochran eventually stopped in a residential area at the intersection of Plott Drive and Charing Lane.
Investigators say they obtained a video from a traffic camera and had eyewitness accounts as well as physical evidence that helped them come to the conclusion that Ryan Cochran was protecting himself and girlfriend Troutman against Pittarelli, whom they say was the aggressor in this situation.
Troutman, who was driving, turned onto her street after they were followed about 5 miles. She told police the Cadillac was driving erratically, came close to her vehicle’s bumper, and was swerving all over the road. Footage from the traffic camera confirmed Pittarelli was driving aggressively, Hamilton said.
Hamilton said Pittarelli got out of his vehicle, and Cochran and Troutman got out of theirs. He said Pittarelli advanced toward Cochran, while continuing to yell and demand Cochran shake his hand.
When Cochran moved his gun from his right hand to his left hand so he could shake hands with Pittarelli, the Charlotte man yelled “are you going to shoot me” and “kill me you (expletive).”
Cochran backed away from Pittarelli while his girlfriend moved between the two and asked Pittarelli to leave.
Hamilton said Pittarelli hit Troutman in the neck, knocking her to the ground and then charged at Cochran.
The chief pointed out that Pittarelli was 6 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed 276 pounds, while Cochran is 5-foot-10 and 188 pounds.
Cochran then pointed his gun and fired. The chief said Pittarelli continued to charge, so Cochran continued to fire. The firefighter fired his gun nine times, with five to seven rounds striking Pittarelli.
Cochran and a neighbor attempted first aid and CPR, Hamilton said.
Investigators believe Pittarelli left the home of a friend after he had a domestic confrontation with his girlfriend, who said Pittarelli assaulted her. Police say the assault occurred less than an hour before Pittarelli pursued Cochran’s vehicle.
“There are indications Pittarelli consumed a quantity of impairing substances, possibly cocaine, alcohol and potentially other substances, prior to his pursing the Cochran vehicle,” Hamilton said.
He said it’s not been confirmed, but investigators believe this was a case of mistaken identity and that Cochran’s vehicle looked similar to a truck owned by the neighbor of Pittarelli’s girlfriend.
Police investigators say the three did not know each other. Police have also said Pittarelli was not armed, nor was he wearing a shirt or shoes.
Cochran told investigators he had two beers at the baseball game and that was why his girlfriend was driving. Police said there is no evidence to suggest Cochran was impaired. They also said Cochran has a concealed-carry permit for the gun.
Authorities also said officers with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department had come into contact with Pittarelli on several occasions while responding to incidents at his Charlotte home. Those officers had seen Pittarelli “engraged, and dealing with him at these calls for service,” the officers said they felt he was dangerous enough to place a district-wide alert on his residence to say officers should not respond to his residence alone, Hamilton said.

“The police department expresses condolences to all involved with this tragic incident, but in particular to the Pittarelli family,” Hamilton said.

Cochran, who has been a firefighter since 2012, has been suspended with pay since the April 30 shooting. The city of Kannapolis issued this statement:

“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the family and friends of both Mr. David Pittarelli and Mr. Ryan Cochran. This is a very tragic event that has profoundly impacted our community.

“We have been awaiting the results of the investigation into this matter by the Concord Police Department and the Cabarrus County District Attorney’s Office. We will review the conclusions of their investigation. With no criminal charges being filed Mr. Cochran’s suspension can be rescinded.”

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.