City man held for trial in local shooting death

When Zachary Williams allegedly began firing at Maurice Dowling along Poco Farm Road Extension on the night of Nov. 12, the 25-year-old Dowling put his hands up in an apparent attempt to defend himself and deflect the bullets, according to witness Joshua A. Cooley.

Shortly after fatally wounding the Philadelphia man, Williams told Cooley, “I wasn’t going to let someone kill me,” Cooley testified Thursday at Williams’ preliminary hearing on homicide and related charges.

Cooley, 22, of the city, testified that Williams allegedly shot Dowling at close range at the remote intersection of Poco Farm Road Extension and Poco Farm Road in Loyalsock Township.

Williams drove Cooley and Dowling to a home along the dark road about 7 p.m. to commit a burglary, but moments after Williams and Dowling got out of the car, Williams pulled out a gun and allegedly began firing as the two men stood behind the vehicle, Cooley testified.

“He put his hands up to cover him … and stumbled away,” Cooley testified, describing Dowling’s actions when he was hit. Cooley, who was sitting in the backseat on the driver’s side, said he never left the vehicle and saw the shooting through the car’s windows.

Cooley said he heard no words exchanged between Williams and Dowling as Williams pulled out a handgun, extended his right arm and began firing. The two men were standing just three to four feet apart, Cooley testified.

The prosecution’s key witness testified that Williams had received a text message that Dowling and another man had planned to rob Williams.

A short time after the shooting, Williams wiped the handgun with a red bandanna and then gave it to Cooley in a plastic bag, instructing him to get rid of the weapon, Cooley testified

Cooley disposed of the bag, that police later recovered — along with the weapon — in the 500 block of Market Street in the city, according to court records.

When paramedics arrived on the scene, Dowling was still alive, but he later was pronounced dead at the scene by Jerold Ross, the county’s chief deputy coroner.

In addition to Cooley, who remains behind bars at the Lycoming County Prison on firearms and conspiracy charges, state Trooper James Doane, the lead investigator in the homicide case, also took the stand Thursday.

Reading from an autopsy report, Doane testified that Dowling died of “multiple gunshot wounds,” adding that Dowling suffered gunshot wounds to the left chest, back, right forearm and left hand.

Williams, of 878 Memorial Ave., was taken into custody in Bloomsburg a day after the shooting as he was approaching his Crown Victoria, the same vehicle he was believed to be driving the night of the alleged murder, police said.

The car was impounded and later searched after police obtained a search warrant. Police recovered a handgun in a hidden compartment in the vehicle, Doane said.

Doane testified that investigators determined that both the gun used in the killing and the one recovered from Williams’ car were stolen in separate burglaries.

Following the hearing, which was held at the county courthouse for security purposes, District Judge Gary A. Whiteman held Williams on all charges, including homicide, aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit a burglary, receiving stolen property, conspiracy to tamper with evidence and firearms violations. He remains jailed on no bail.

Cooley waived his preliminary hearing last month on charges of receiving stolen property, conspiracy to commit burglary, firearm violations and related offenses. He remains jailed in lieu of $150,000 bail.