Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman has determined Pennsylvania State Police troopers were justified in shooting at a fleeing man in April when the man attempted to strike police with his vehicle.
The incident happened around midnight on April 27 on Bridge Valley Road in Martic Township.
John Anderson, 55, of New Jersey, initially fled police in Manheim Township and throughout the course of an extensive fleeing/pursuit, he tried to drive into two troopers on Bridge Valley Road.
Troopers Chad Dohner and Nicholas Ciatto responded by firing multiple shots at Anderson’s vehicle as it continued to flee. Anderson was not struck by the gunfire. His vehicle was, but he continued to flee before crashing his vehicle on River Road.
District Attorney Stedman cited these three primary factors in his determination that the troopers were justified in firing shots:
- Anderson attempted to use his vehicle as a weapon and run into two troopers as they attempted to employ non-lethal means to end the pursuit.
- Anderson engaged in two high-speed pursuits episodes - before the troopers fired - spanning multiple jurisdictions and miles, conduct which illustrated an extreme indifference to the value of human life, specifically police and civilians.
- Anderson would likely have continued this conduct had he not crashed his vehicle.
The incident began in Manheim Township about 11:56 p.m. when Anderson failed to stop for police (who employed emergency lights and sirens) after Anderson committed several traffic violations. Manheim Township police discontinued their pursuit for public-safety reasons. Soon after, Anderson’s vehicle was observed traveling the wrong way down a one-way street and West Lampeter Township police attempted to stop the vehicle. Anderson again fled at high speed and a second pursuit ensued at 12:24 a.m., with West Lampeter Township police assisted by Southern Regional police and Pennsylvania State Police, whom pursued Anderson for miles.
As Anderson traveled from Route 324 to West View Road to Bridge Valley Road, state police attempted to stop Anderson on Bridge Valley Road. The troopers partially blocked the roadway with their cruiser as their intention was to lay down stop sticks. However, Anderson arrived before they could do this. Troopers Dohner and Ciatto, who had been standing off to the side of the road, then entered the roadway to make contact with Anderson as his vehicle appeared to be slowing down. The troopers could clearly see Anderson; when Anderson presumably saw the troopers, he accelerated his vehicle at high speed towards them. Both troopers were in harm’s way and in fear for their lives and the lives of any civilians in the area, so they fired and struck the vehicle numerous times. Anderson evaded detention and traveled to River Road where the crash happened.
Anderson was apprehended at his vehicle; he was not injured.
Regarding the pursuit, Anderson is charged by the Manheim Township Police with misdemeanor fleeing and eluding and reckless endangerment, as well various traffic offenses. Anderson is also charged by the state police with felony counts of aggravated assault and fleeing and eluding, and misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment, along with multiple traffic offenses.
During the pursuits, numerous police departments were involved in addition to the Pennsylvania State Police, to include officers from Manheim Township, West Lampeter Township, and Southern Regional departments.
A team of Lancaster County Detectives responded to the scene to investigate the incident in conjunction with Pennsylvania State Police investigators from Troop J. Assistant District Attorney Barry Goldman assisted in the review of the case.
Anderson is presumed innocent.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @BrettHambright