Homicide victim, injured cop identified
In the closing moments of a quick, violent gun battle with state troopers outside Sheetz in Woodward Township on Tuesday night, 27-year-old Paul R. Heath, of Philadelphia, turned the gun on himself and committed suicide, investigators confirmed.
The city officer he allegedly shot in the 1500 block of West Third Street about 6:40 p.m., Patrolman Nicholas Carrita, continued to improve and was expected to be discharged from the hospital on Wednesday or today, Capt. Jody Miller, head of the patrol division, said.
“He is doing well and is in good spirits,” Miller said of Carrita, 24, a Williamsport area native who joined the city’s Bureau of Police early last year, first going on patrol in August 2016 after completing a municipal training program.
Carrita had pursued a Dodge Charger as its driver was fleeing a shooting scene inside a home at 2225 W. Third St., police said.
The driver pulled over about seven blocks away. The officer ordered him out of the vehicle at gunpoint, but the man, later identified as Heath, jumped out and began firing at Carrita, striking him in the right arm, police said.
Heath sped off and was pursued by police for several miles on Route 220, heading south to the Jersey Shore area first and then back again north on the four-lane highway, ending in a wild shootout with state troopers at Sheetz at South Pine Run Road.
Inside the West Third Street home, police found 33-year-old Shawn Graham, a resident of the house, dead of a gunshot wound to the abdomen, Miller said.
When a reporter visited the home late Wednesday morning, he was turned away. “Bro, we got nothing for you,” one man said.
Another police officer en route to the original shooting scene, stopped at the second scene and took the injured Carrita to the UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport Regional Medical Center, where he was admitted for observation, Miller said.
Heath, who has no local address but “a lot of connections to Philadelphia,” is suspected of being involved in Graham’s homicide along with a possible second suspect, Miller said.
Miller said police did not know if Heath and Graham knew one another. He had no comment concerning a possible motive for the shooting and declined to say how many other people were in the house at the time of the shooting.
“We have reason to believe there could be another individual who participated in the event that occurred at the homicide scene. We’re trying to track down some of those accounts,” Miller said.
Investigators had no descriptive details to release of the possible second suspect.
While he did not know Heath, Miller said from his personal experience with Graham, “I always found him a pleasure to talk to. He was always decent and polite.”
Miller confirmed that the shooting of Carrita was recorded on s camcorder in his officer’s cruiser.
“From the time the officer observed the fleeing vehicle to the time when the car was stopped and shots were fired, the whole action took less than a minute,” Miller said.
Miller could not say if Carrita was able to return fire. “That is part of the state police investigation,” he said, noting that the state police were overseeing the investigation into the shooting of the officer as well as the shooting at Sheetz that resulted in Heath’s death.
State police would not release any new details about either incident on Wednesday.
“Due to the nature of the investigations and in the interest of maintaining the integrity of the investigations, no further details will be provided at this time,” state police said in prepared statement released Wednesday afternoon.
“We appreciate your patience, and welcome information that could further the investigation,” the statement said.
Mayor Gabriel J. Campana called the shooting of Carrita “a lack of respect for law enforcement hitting home.”
Campana visited the officer at the hospital and thanked him for his service. “I told him there were many who are praying for him and his family,” Campana said.
The mayor encouraged everyone to keep in mind “Officer Carrita and all our police officers whose job is to protect, serve and keep us safe.”
This is only the second homicide in the city this year. The other was in the 300 block of Locust Street, where a 36-year-old was stabbed to death on June 21. A 25-year-old man is awaiting trial on homicide-related charges in that case.
The scene of Tuesday night’s homicide is just around the corner from the 600 block of Poplar Street, where a 50-year-old woman and her 24-year-old son were shot to death on Oct. 31, 2016.
Two men have been arrested in the case and are awaiting trial on charges that they shot and killed the two during an apparent attempt to rob the son of drugs and money, according to investigators.
Two months later, on Dec. 30, a 31-year-old man was shot to death in the middle of the afternoon outside an auto repair business on Boyd and Arch streets, just a few blocks east of east of where Graham was slain.