Police: Four Dead After Shootings At P.J. Harrigan’s, Tussey Lane Residence
State College police chief John Gardner met with the media Friday afternoon at the municipal building to provide an update on Thursday night’s shootings at P.J. Harrigan’s at the Ramada Hotel and at a Tussey Lane residence.
Four people were left dead after Jordan Witmer, 21, of Bellefonte, opened fire at the P.J. Harrigan’s bar. Nicole Abrino and Witmer were sitting at the bar together, with Steven and Dean Beachy sitting across from them when Witmer got up and walked to the other side where they were sitting.
Police say he then shot Abrino, 21, who sustained a wound to the chest and is in critical condition at a Pittsburgh area hospital, Steven Beachy, 19, who was transported to a hospital and pronounced dead Friday afternoon, and Dean Beachy, 61, who died at the scene.
The weapon used was a small-caliber semi-automatic, according to Gardner, believed but not confirmed to be a 9mm. Witmer had a lawful permit to carry the weapon.
Witmer fled the scene in a car, which police found crashed in a ditch near the State College YMCA at the intersection of Waupelani Drive and Tussey Lane around 10:46 p.m. The car was unoccupied and no other weapons were found in the vehicle.
Police were then dispatched to 748 Tussey Lane at 11:09 p.m. to a call of burglary and shots fired. When officers arrived at 11:14 p.m., they found WItmer dead in the living room of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had entered the home by shooting a sliding glass door. Resident George McCormick, 83, was found dead. Resident Joann McCormick, 80, was found unharmed.
In response to criticism for not releasing more information to the public sooner, Gardner said one thing the department could have done better was to release information sooner that the threat had been eliminated. However, he stressed that officers’ first priorities are to respond safely, assess the situation, identify immediate threats, triage injuries, render aid, attempt to save lives, identify suspects, and get information from any witnesses or the victims themselves.
The first thing officers did after that was to put out information to all law enforcement agencies in the area. By that point, Gardner said much of the information police knew was already out on local television or on social media.
Gardner said he does not recall any incidents of this level, with multiple gunshot wounds, in his 29 years with the department.
“Obviously we’re not immune from it like anywhere else,” Gardner said. “Relatively speaking, State College is one of the safest places in America…it’s the people in general who live here, and that’s one of the reasons they want to live here, is because it’s a safe community.”
Investigation into the incident will continue into the coming weeks and months, Garnder said, to determine what unfolded. It remains unknown what caused Witmer to open fire, and his relationship, if any, with the victims.
Anyone who may have information on the incident is encouraged to contact the State College Police at by phone at (814) 863-1111, by email, or by submitting an anonymous tip through the department’s website.
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The Penn State episode will air Wednesday, October 9 at 10 p.m. and follow the team’s preparation for its Homecoming game against Purdue the previous weekend.
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