Cop hurt in shootout

PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette
A witness said the driver of this white Dodge Charger pulled into Sheetz on Route 220 Tuesday night and exchanged gunfire with state troopers who were pursuing him. The driver died, but it was unclear if it was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound or from gunfire from police.

PHILIP A. HOLMES/Sun-Gazette A witness said the driver of this white Dodge Charger pulled into Sheetz on Route 220 Tuesday night and exchanged gunfire with state troopers who were pursuing him. The driver died, but it was unclear if it was the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound or from gunfire from police.

Three related shootings Tuesday night left one man dead in a home in the 2200 block of West Third Street, a city police officer wounded several blocks east of the scene and a man connected with both shootings dead at Sheetz on Route 220 in Woodward Township.

The officer, whose identity was not released, was rushed to the UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport Regional Medical Center, where he was recovering, city Police Chief David Young confirmed.

At least a dozen customers were inside Sheetz or near the pumps when a driver who had been pursued for several miles on the four-lane highway jumped out of his car and exchanged gunfire with numerous state troopers.

No employees or customers at the business were injured.

“The police chase ended here. A guy got out of a car and started firing shots at the cops,” one witness, who did not give his name, told a reporter at the convenience market as it still was swarming with numerous officers.

“The cops returned fire. I didn’t see how it ended. I was ducking down in my truck,” the 47-year-old witness said, adding he had pulled into Sheetz to buy a pack of cigarettes just moments before the gunfight broke out.

“I heard the sirens, saw the cops coming down the highway. I think I heard seven or eight shots total,” said the witness, who installs glass as a career.

“The cops had blocked his vehicle on the highway and he pulled into here,” the witness said, describing the car as a white Dodge Charger.

“I was ducking. I didn’t see everything. The driver was firing off two or three rounds when he first got out of the car,” the witness said. When it was all over, “all the officers swarmed in and contained the area.”

At press time, it was unknown if the gunman was shot by police or if he took his own life as troopers were moving in on him.

Investigators said the gunman wounded a city police officer who had stopped his car in the 1500 block of West Third Street, just moments after police were called to a shooting at 2225 W. Third St., Young said.

As the officer was nearing the scene, he spotted a car that matched the description of a vehicle a dispatcher had put out on the radio as a possible car involved in the shooting, Young said.

There was a brief pursuit before the driver pulled over in the 1500 block of West Third Street, Young said.

“The officer ordered the man out at gunpoint. The driver originally would not comply. Shortly thereafter, the suspect exited the vehicle and began shooting at the officer,” Young said.

“The officer was hit and took cover. He called it in, and then the vehicle fled,” he said.

“I don’t know how many shots were fired. The officer was struck one time,” Young added.

As other officers and more police agencies caught up and pursued the fleeing vehicle, the chase continued a considerable distance south on Route 220 near the Clinton County line before it backtracked into Piatt Township and ended at Sheetz.

“From what I’ve been told, some shots were fired between the suspect and police on Route 220,” Young said.

Upon learning that one of his officers was wounded, the chief immediately responded to the hospital’s emergency room to visit him and family members.

“He’s conscious and alert. He is going to be admitted to the intensive care unit for observation,” Young said, adding that he believed the officer had been on the force for under three years.

“I talked with his mother before she went to see him. His mother is with him, along with one of our officers and chaplain,” Young said.

He said the officer suffered a single gunshot wound to the right arm.

He had no information to release on the motive behind the first shooting. Lycoming County Coroner Charles E. Kiessling Jr. was dispatched to the scene.

A search warrant was being obtained before the victim’s body was going to be removed from the home.

Back at Sheetz, troopers interviewed all the witnesses.

State police Lt. Sherman Shadle, a ranking crime supervisor at the scene, said “We’re still working on the investigation as far as the details. We’re still trying to determine what transpired throughout the pursuit and the shooting (the exchange of gun before the driver and the troopers).

“We still have a lot of interviews to conduct and physical evidence to collect,” Shadle said.