Witness To Old Forge Shooting Said Suspect Fired On Police

December 9, 2017 GMT

The armed bank robber police fatally shot Thursday in Old Forge fired between six and eight shots at officers before a volley of return fire brought him down, a witness who was a few feet from the exchange said Friday.

Lackawanna County Coroner Tim Rowland concluded after an autopsy that John Souder died from two gunshot wounds to his head. The 40-year-old Old Forge man’s death is ruled a homicide, but the decision on whether the killing was justified falls to Lackawanna County District Attorney Shane Scanlon.

Souder robbed the M&T Bank in the Midway Shopping Center in Wyoming shortly before 1:30 p.m. Thursday then led police on a chase through Pittston and into Old Forge.

The pursuit ended and the shooting began in the parking lot of the Old Forge Animal Hospital, 904 S. Main St.

Behind the desk in the lobby of the animal hospital, Wafaa Gad, the office manager, put down the phone as Souder’s black PT Cruiser drove slowly up the road, heading a procession of police vehicles.

The PT Cruiser pulled into the animal hospital’s parking lot and its driver, identified by police as Souder, opened his door and fired his gun, Gad said. The police pursuing him fired back, she said.

“A lot of shots,” Gad said. “Like a lot of shots. ... From everywhere, from all the guns that they have. All of them.”

Gad said she saw a bullet strike Souder’s head. He dropped. Souder was loaded into an ambulance soon after.

An undisclosed number of unidentified state troopers and municipal police officers are on administrative leave while the investigation proceeds, police said. Police declined to identify which agencies were involved in the shooting, how many shots were fired or how many times Souder had been struck.

The PT Cruiser had numerous bullet holes. Gad said authorities were at the scene into the night Thursday.

Scanlon declined Friday to identify which officers, how many or from which departments are on administrative leave. Interviews are ongoing and investigators have recovered a significant amount of video, he said.

“With what we’ve seen at least 80 to 85 percent of this incident has been caught on video,” Scanlon said.

He declined to discuss specifics of the investigation, which he said is still “relatively fresh.”

Police found Souder’s gun outside his car. Officers also retrieved a bag of cash that matched the description of the bag used in the bank robbery.

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