Cumberland Times-News

Local News

December 21, 2012

Man dies in gunfight with troopers after killing three

One victim was decorating for children’s Christmas party at Altoona area church

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. — Four people were shot to death and three state police troopers were injured in a bizarre shooting Friday morning near Geesytown, Frankstown Township, Blair County.

Among those killed was the gunman, who lived nearby in the Hollidaysburg area.

The names of the victims were not available Friday evening.

Pennsylvania State Police Trooper David McGarvey said the gunman shot and killed three people at three different locations. One shooting took place at a home, another in a yard of a residence and the third at a church, he said.

“It’s going to take us some time to put this all together ... and know exactly what occurred,” Lt. Col. George Bivens, deputy state police commissioner, said at a news briefing.

Authorities are working to determine a motive.

Bivens said investigators don’t know if the victims were picked at random. “We’re not at that point in the investigation to firmly say one way or another,” he said.

Troopers were responding to a report of shots being fired on Juniata Valley Road at about 9 a.m. when the gunman, fleeing the scene, started shooting a handgun at a police cruiser, McGarvey said. The trooper driving that vehicle was injured by flying glass and shrapnel as a result of the gunfire.

The suspect then shot at a second cruiser. That trooper turned around and started to chase the suspect when the suspect crashed head-on into a third cruiser.

The suspect got out of his vehicle and opened fire. Troopers returned fire, killing the suspect.

One trooper was hit by gunfire, causing injuries to his chest and wrist, but he was protected by body armor in the chest area.

A second trooper was hurt by shattered glass and shrapnel, and a third hurt in the crash.

None of the injuries was believed to be life-threatening.

The woman shot at Juniata Valley Gospel Church had cooked food the day before for the funeral of the longtime pastor, said the Rev. James McCaulley, his brother. The church was still reeling from the Rev. David McCaulley’s death when the woman returned to decorate the church hall — named after the pastor of 58 years — for a children’s Christmas party,  and bullets ripped through a window.

The gunman then entered and shot one of two women before he left, the Rev. James McCaulley said.

James McCaulley, who is the pastor of another church, said his older brother began leading the Frankstown church in 1954.

“He preached his last sermon at the church in October before he fell ill,” James McCaulley said.

The church, which lists about 150 members in an online want ad posted this month for an associate pastor, is close-knit, and the woman killed Friday was among its more active members, James McCaulley said. She had made food for him to bring home Thursday since his wife had died this year, he said.

“The only thing I can say good at this time is that (the gunman) didn’t do this 24 hours earlier when there was a big crowd in the church hall,” James McCaulley said. “We’re devastated.”

Also assisting in the investigation are the Blair County District Attorney’s Office, the Blair County Coroner’s Office, Geeseytown Community Fire Company and other agencies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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