Carbondale police officer to face trial on homicide charge

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Carbondale Police Officer Prelim 2_20160405222707

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – The Lackawanna County District Attorney believes a man who was shot-and-killed by an off-duty police officer was executed.

Those comments came Tuesday as Carbondale police officer Frank Schulze faced a judge for a preliminary hearing on criminal homicide charges.

After a four-hour hearing, a judge decided Schulze should stand trial on homicide and assault charges but dismissed one count of reckless endangerment.

The officer’s attorney calls the allegations “outrageous.”

The family of Frank Schulze left court in tears knowing the 25-year-old isn’t getting out of jail anytime soon.

Prosecutors say he basically executed Joseph Molinaro, firing three shots at him on a Carbondale street while off-duty in early February.

“Throughout the course of this incident, Mr. Molinaro showed his hands several times and several times showed they were empty,” Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon said.

In court Tuesday, Eyewitness News learned that Schulze may have had three bourbon and cokes the day of the shooting.

Schulze claims what happened was self-defense, that he heard noises outside of him, went to investigate and then followed Molinaro.

Right before the shooting, Schulze says the victim lunged towards him.

“There’s a good officer with a clean record sitting in a jail right now unnecessarily,” defense attorney Corey Kolcharno said.

Michael Dietz will be a key witness. He saw the shooting.

He testified Tuesday that he believes the two men were about seven to ten feet apart at the time of the deadly shooting but officer Schulze claims he fired when they were at “point blank” range.

Molinaro’s family declined to comment after Tuesday’s hearing.

In court, Eyewitness News also learned officer Schulze and Joseph Molinaro had two previous run-in’s. One of the calls was for domestic violence and the second time was for public drunkenness.

“In the two times Frank Schulze dealt with Joseph Molinaro, Joe Molinaro kind of told him he wasn’t his boss and he wasn’t going to listen. A potential motive is that Joe Molinaro wasn’t going to tell him that again,” DA Scanlon said.

“For him to even insinuate that there was a motivation for this crime, that this was done execution-style is completely improper,” Kolcharno said.

Another key evidence was played in court Tuesday: the 911 call made by officer Frank Schulze.

On the 911 call, you could hear the officer telling Molinaro to “get on the ground” followed by three quick shots and then Schulze telling the dispatcher “I just shot him.”

Officer Schulze remains behind bars.

His attorney plans to seek an emergency bail petition as soon as possible. He believes this shooting isn’t a first-degree murder case.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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