Victim critical; shooter held on $500,000 bail

A five-year boyfriend-girlfriend relationship that ended over the weekend turned violent Monday night when the woman pulled out a handgun and fired several shots into the man’s back in the parking lot of St. John’s-Newberry United Methodist Church at 2101 Newberry St., city police said.

Christina Marie Emerick, 23, of 2116 Hillside Ave., was arrested at the scene and charged with attempted homicide and related offenses for allegedly shooting Christopher Downs, 28, just before 6 p.m., Agent Ronald Bachman said.

Both arrived at the far western end of the church parking lot in separate vehicles, but “we believe at this point it was an unplanned meeting,” Bachman said.

There was an argument that began in the lot, and then Emerick allegedly started firing shots at Downs at close range, Bachman said.

Police did not know if Downs saw the weapon before he was shot in the back.

Neither Emerick nor Downs had any affiliation with the church or the events that were taking place there Monday night, police said.

At the time of the shooting, several parents, children and other adults were entering the church for Vacation Bible School or a church meeting, Pastor Jay E. Jones said.

“Fortunately, all entered the building safely and remained inside until the situation was under control,” Jones said.

After Downs fell to the pavement, one witness told the Sun-Gazette, the woman “was still trying to shoot him while he was crawling on the ground.”

It is believed that Downs was now in the street.

After emptying her .410 revolver, Emerick jumped on the gravely wounded man and “repeatedly beat him about the head with the handgun,” Bachman said police were told.

“He was screaming the whole time. It was horrible (to see this),” the witness, a 26-year-old female resident of the block, told the Sun-Gazette.

“Another man stopped, tackled the woman off the victim and ordered her to drop the gun, which she did,” the witness, who did not give her name, said.

“She clearly wasn’t after anyone but him. She was out of bullets,” the woman said.

“You’re lucky I don’t have any more bullets,” Emerick was heard yelling, the witness said.

After dropping her weapon, Emerick “sat on the ground, put her hands behind her back and waited for the police,” the witness said. Emerick was handcuffed without incident.

The witness said the victim “was bleeding profusely.” She believed the man was hit in the neck and back.

“I’m just sick about this,” the witness said.

As paramedics began treating Downs, his ex-girlfriend began yelling threats at him, police said.

“I hope you die, you bastard. I should have used hollow points. I should have taken your life. I wish I did,” Emerick was heard saying, according to police.

“Downs was on the ground and totally defenseless,” the investigator added.

The victim identified Emerick as the alleged shooter, Bachman said.

Police recovered a pistol with “five spent rounds inside. The weapon was registered to Emerick,” Bachman said.

Initially taken to the Williamsport Regional Medical Center, Downs was flown to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, where he was reported Tuesday night in critical condition “with a collapsed lung and multiple pellets embedded in internal organs,” Bachman said.

Investigators are hoping to question Downs further when his medical condition improves.

The weapon used in the shooting was a pistol that shoots shotgun shells, Bachman added.

Emerick was arraigned late Monday night before District Judge Jerry C. Lepley on charges of attempted homicide, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering and possession of an instrument of crime. She was committed to the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $500,000 bail.

The witness who spoke to the Sun-Gazette said she “was traumatized” by the ordeal and “very upset” that a group of girls, ages 11 to 13, walking across the church parking lot, were exposed to the violence.

“This really was revolting. The girls were emotionally upset. One of the girls told me ‘I never thought I would see this kind of thing with my own eyes,’ ” the witness said.

Jones commended the church staff and volunteers for handling a very intense ordeal.

“Our prayers go out to the families involved in this situation, to our neighbors and all those who were witnesses” to the shooting, Jones added.