1 trooper killed, 1 critically wounded in central Pennsylvania
Jun 18, 2023, 8:22 AM | Updated: 4:08 pm
MIFFLINTOWN, Pa. (AP) — State police in Pennsylvania have identified the trooper killed and another trooper critically wounded in separate encounters Saturday with a gunman who attacked a state police barracks and was later shot and killed himself after a manhunt and a fierce gunbattle.
Trooper Jacques Rougeau Jr., 29, was killed and Lt. James Wagner, 45, was critically wounded in separate encounters before Brandon Stine, 38, of Thompsontown was killed, police said. Officials said they haven’t been able to identify a motive for his actions.
Stine drove his truck into the parking lot of the Lewistown barracks in Juniata County about 11 a.m. Saturday and opened fire with a large-caliber rifle on marked patrol cars before fleeing, Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Christopher Paris said Sunday.
Stine was identified shortly after the shooting, and a search began for him, he said.
Lt. Col. George Bivens, deputy commissioner of operations, who went up in a helicopter to coordinate the search, said Stine appeared to be playing a “cat and mouse” game — calling 911 to give a location and then not being there when they arrived.
“He seemed to be setting our people up for potential ambush,” Bivens said.
Wagner encountered Stine in Mifflintown about 12:45 p.m. Saturday and was shot and critically wounded, Paris said. People in the area went to his aid and used his radio to call for help, and emergency medical personnel arrived and took him to Lewistown Hospital, from which he was flown to Hershey Medical Center.
Later, Rougeau was ambushed and killed by a gunshot through the windshield of his patrol car as he drove down a road in nearby Walker Township, Bivens said. Police only found out that Rougeau had been shot immediately after the manhunt ended, and “he was beyond assistance at that point,” Bivens said.
Stine then escaped into a somewhat rural but still residential area and was seen driving through a field toward a store and small restaurant with patrons in the parking lot, Bivens said. Troopers put themselves in between the people and the suspect and forced him away from the business. After an exchange of gunfire, he drove through a yard and garden, finally getting stuck against a row of trees as police continued to engage him, Bivens said.
“What I witnessed … was one of the most intense, unbelievable gunfights I have ever witnessed,” Bivens said, lauding troopers for launching an aggressive search despite the fact that they were facing a weapon that “would defeat any of the body armor that they had available to them.”
Rougeau, who was married, would have marked his third anniversary with the department later this month, officials said. Wagner, a 21-year veteran, is currently commander of the Bedford barracks, is a naval reservist and has three sons in the Coast Guard, officials said.
“At this point, there are no clear motives we can point to,” Paris said. “I’m struck by the level of violence … and I remain humbled and in awe of the way that our people rallied and brought the resources needed to bear to protect the community.”
Paris called it a miracle that no civilians were killed or injured on what he called “a tragic and harrowing day.”
Gov. Josh Shapiro and Paris of the state police were at the hospital where the injured trooper was being treated Saturday night. Shapiro said both thanked his colleagues for their service and prayed for his recovery. The governor said he and first lady Lori Shapiro “send our love to the family of the trooper killed today. May his memory be a blessing.”
The Fraternal Order of Police Pennsylvania State Lodge said it was devastated at the shooting of “not one but two” troopers, one of whom made “the ultimate sacrifice.”
“Bravery and honor best describe these troopers, and we will hold their heroic actions in our hearts and minds forever,” the lodge’s president, Joseph Regan, said in a social media post.
President David Kennedy of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, an organization made up of 4,300 active and retired troopers, said the commonwealth “has lost one hero while another fights for his life.”
“The bravery of these Troopers and their loved ones will stay in our hearts forever,” he said in a post on social media.