Police officers stand in the doorway of a Lynn Drive home Wednesday evening, as the investigation of a shooting there continued
POTTSTOWN PA – Lower Pottsgrove police, and other officers and first responders from across western Philadelphia suburbs, spent several tense hours Wednesday (July 10, 2013) surrounding a home in the 1300 block of Lynn Drive in the township where a single shot had been fired shortly after 11:30 a.m. One man, a member of the Army National Guard whose name has not yet been released, was later found dead inside from what police speculate was a self-inflicted wound.
No police shots were fired, and no other injuries were reported, Chief Michael Foltz said. The drama continued throughout the day, and its investigation well into the night. At one point, law enforcers prompted residents of eight surrounding homes to evacuate them, and asked the Pottsgrove School District to lock down some of its buildings and remove children from summer programs there.
As the situation unfolded, police exercised patience and caution, Foltz said. When it became clear no hostages were involved and the home’s occupant was alone, first responders used various means to talk to the man, then sought a response using disturbance devices, and finally relied on robots and members of the ChesMont Emergency Response Team (CMERT) tactical response unit to enter the residence.
[box type=”alert” style=”rounded”]In today’s Post coverage of this event:
The incident began during the late morning hours, as representatives of the National Guard called at the home to determine if the man was available for conversation, and to check on his health. He had been scheduled to report for duty Friday (July 5) at Fort Indiantown Gap PA, Foltz said, but had not arrived and was being considered absent-without-leave.
The normally quiet neighborhood less than a quarter-mile east of Pottsgrove High School was ablaze most of Wednesday with flashing lights from fire, emergency and police vehicles
Lower Pottsgrove police were asked to assist and responded in what Foltz described as the “well check.” Shortly after their arrival on scene, they heard a shot fired, drew their weapons, temporarily retreated from the property, and called for back-ups. Initially officers thought they had been fired upon, and early reports put one officer inside the home at the time. Neither was the case, Foltz said.
After residents nearby were evacuated as a precaution, others at a greater distance were urged to stay inside and not venture near windows and doors, the chief said. In addition, occupied school buildings within the immediate area – the Pottsgrove High school, district office, and Ringing Rocks Elementary School are less than a quarter-mile away – were locked and students and personnel there evacuated as well.
Although school was not in regular session, its day-to-day business operations were under way at the district office. Summer programs were running at the high school and Ringing and Lower Pottsgrove Elementary schools, and contractors were working on repairs to the high school roof.
Expectedly, the nature of the emergency attracted an abundance of Philadelphia area media attention. Although some videographers and photographers were given access closer to the scene, a majority of reporters and other media members were limited to a staging area at the front of the high school. That’s also where Foltz conducted interviews and offered updates on the situation.
Because the home’s occupant was unresponsive, officers deployed two different types of robots to learn what was happening inside. The first to arrive and be used was a large, heavy model that encountered difficulty in maneuvering through some rooms, Foltz said.
A second model, lighter and more compact, had no difficulty and showed police much of what they needed to know. It discovered the man’s lifeless body in a second-floor bedroom of the home. CMERT members – alert, vigilant and armed – entered the house only minutes later.
Police allowed residents to begin returning to the neighborhood by about 5:45 p.m. Investigators were on site well into the evening, however. The home, with light pouring from almost every window and some windows opened with fans running to circulate air, buzzed with the activity of officers and detectives for several hours.
The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office also is conducted its investigation. Although the cause of the man’s death appeared evident to police, Foltz said, “we’ll wait for the coroner to conclude anything official.” The victim’s name was being withheld, he said, until all next of kin could be notified.