Two competing stories were told about the circumstances under which Dusan Milic, a twenty-year old Croatian-immigrant steelworker, shot and killed Pittsburgh Police Officer Andrew J. Kelly under the Lincoln Avenue Bridge in East Liberty on Sunday evening, October 4, 1903.
Most likely is that Milic and his companion, Mary Lugan, were walking home from a wedding when, in a “spirit of fun or youthful buoyancy,”(Pardon Board recommendation, March 15, 1915), Milic fired his gun and Lugan screamed.
Kelly, a police officer who was walking in the area, responded to the sounds by running at Milic with his gun drawn. Milic shot Kelly, who died at the scene. Milic was shot in the hand.
Kelly, a native of Indiana County, was not in uniform. He had been removed from uniformed patrol for unspecified disciplinary reasons and was instead working as a watchman guarding against theft at the Columbia Construction Company labor camp.
Milic, who boarded with the Lugan family and was dating 18-year old Mary, claimed that Kelly fired first and that he did not know Kelly was a police officer.
After the shooting, Milic was apprehended by police. He confessed, claiming he acted in self-defense. In addition to arresting Milic, approximately 50 other “foreigners” living in area boarding houses were arrested as part of an anti-immigrant dragnet.
At trial, Milic’s claim of self-defense was rejected and he was found guilty of first-degree murder on Christmas Day, 1903, the first time a county jury met on that day.
In February 1904, Milic’s brother, Nicholas, committed assault with intent to kill so that he could be arrested in an effort to be executed with his brother.
Milic’s death sentence was commuted to life by the Board of Pardons on December 21, 1904. Police officers supported the commutation, saying the case was appropriately manslaughter.
Finding that his case was appropriately one of self-defense or, at most, voluntary manslaughter, the Pardon Board granted Milic a full pardon on March 18, 1915, and released him from prison.
In a tragic addendum to the case, Mary Lugan died of burns sustained in a household accident on March 27, 1904.
In the other version of the case, Milic is said to have attacked, raped, or threatened to kill Lugan and Kelly is said to have been a uniformed police officer.