Lackawanna County D.A. clears police of any wrong-doing in shooting death in Old Forge
SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. (WOLF) —
The Lackawanna County District Attorney's Office and Pennsylvania State Police have completed the investigation into the officer-involved shooting of John Souder who robbed a bank in Wyoming and led police on a 9-mile chase to Old Forge. They have found no wrong-doing in the fatal shooting by police.
District Attorney, Shane Scanlon, stated "almost this entire incident from the time that Souder enters the bank until the end of this tragic incident was captured on video. Based upon review of those videos, numerous interviews and in the opinion of investigators and me, the Officers did everything in their power to prevent the unfortunate, but unavoidable ending to this incident. It is my opinion that the Of?cers acted to prevent death and/or serious bodily injury to other of?cers and nearby civilians."
During the investigation, it was learned that Souder had phoned his finance' Beth Hunsicker and stated ”I robbed a bank”, ”the cops are chasing me." ”I’ll see you in heaven."
On December 7, 2017 at approximately 1:24 p.m., Luzerne County 911 received a 911 call from a woman who indicated that M&T Bank in the Midway Shopping Center (Wyoming Borough) was being robbed. The witness described the suspect as a male wearing a red hoodie and a black mask brandishing a black firearm. The caller was in the bank during the robbery and exited to call 911. The caller indicated that the robber stated give me all of the bills”. The caller observed the robber exit the bank and walk toward the "bounce place". The witness remained on scene to speak with investigators.
Also, at approximately 1:24 p,m., the Luzerne County 911 received an additional 911 call from an Assistant Manager from M&T Bank explaining that the M&T Bank at 1066 Wyoming Avenue in the Midway Shopping Center (Wyoming Borough) was just robbed. The Assistant Manager explained that the bank was robbed by a white male in an orange or red hoodie, wearing a black mask, armed with a black revolver. The robber obtained money from two of the bank tellers and the robber was last seen walking toward the Bon Ton.
As a result of the 911 calls, Luzerne County dispatched Officers to the M&T Bank at 1066 Wyoming Avenue in the Midway Shopping Center in Wyoming Borough. An Officer of the West Wyoming Police Department heard the dispatch and received information, via the mobile data terminal in his vehicle. The Of?cer activated the lights and sirens in his marked police vehicle and responded to the Midway Shopping Center. The Officer was made aware by dispatch that the suspect (later identified as John Souder) was wearing a red hoodie and black mask and had just committed an armed robbery with a firearm. As the Officer entered the Midway Shopping Center’s lot, a good samaritan flagged him down and told him that “the male in the red shirt just ran into the woods”. The good samaritan also indicated a direction by pointing. The Officer then alerted other responding units of the information he learned over the police radio and he then headed in that direction toward the ”dike”.
An Officer of the Wyoming Borough Police Department was at Police Headquarters when he heard the call dispatched over the police radio. The Officer was responding to the Midway Shopping Center when he heard the Officer from the West Wyoming Police Department give information that the robbery suspect entered into the woods, heading toward the dike. The Officer pulled his unmarked vehicle into the dike parking lot and observed Souder on foot, walking toward a black PT Cruiser. The Officer yelled commands for Souder to stop but instead Souder entered the black PT Cruiser and drove around the Officer’s vehicle.
At this point, the Officer from the West Wyoming Police Department had just entered the dike parking lot. Both Officers activated their vehicle emergency lights and sirens and began pursuing Souder’s black PT Cruiser.
At approximately the time of dispatch, Pennsylvania State Troopers hear or learn of the bank robbery, which was located very close to the Pennsylvania State Police Wyoming Barracks. Two State Troopers respond toward the bank separately and in separate vehicles.
As the members of Pennsylvania State Police reached the area of the dike, they observed Souder’s vehicle exit the dike parking lot at a high rate of speed being pursued by the two local police vehicles. The two State Troopers joined the pursuit.
During an approximately nine-mile pursuit, Souder was driving erratically at high rates of speed, running red traf?c lights, illegally passing vehicles (into oncoming traffic) and at one point, driving over a sidewalk to get through an intersection. Numerous motorists and pedestrians were put at risk by the reckless conduct of Souder. Also during the pursuit, Souder was observed by law enforcement to be holding a firearm in his left hand.
As the pursuit progressed from Luzerne County, the Pennsylvania State Police requested to become the primary pursuit vehicle in an effort to perform a P.I.T. Maneuver to safely bring the pursuit to an end. Due to a multitude of factors, the P.I.T. Maneuver could not be attempted or safely completed.
Once the pursuit entered into Old Forge Borough, Souder pulled his PT. Cruiser off the roadway in front of the Old Forge Animal Hospital located at 904 South Main Street, Old Forge, Lackawanna County, PA.
Almost simultaneously with stopping his vehicle, from the onboard vehicle cameras, Souder can be observed aggressively throwing open the driver’s side door and exiting his vehicle with the black revolver in his left hand. Souder was seen ”leveling” the gun as he was attempting to exit his vehicle. The first four pursuing Officers observed Souder exiting the vehicle with the firearm in his hand and each Officer discharged their weapons.
Officers and Troopers then approached Souder’s vehicle and immediately began lifesaving efforts while waiting for EMS units. As Souder was being removed from the vehicle, his firearm was removed from his person and remained outside of his vehicle.
Souder was transported to a local hospital where he later succumbed to his injury. On December 8, 2017, Coroner Timothy Rowland, in consultation with a Forensic Pathologist, ruled the cause of death as gunshot wounds to the head and manner of death as a homicide.