Facts lacking in neighboring gunfire

Facts lacking in neighboring gunfire

Ed Driekorn

Richland Township Police Station as seen after the 10:30 a.m., Spet. 13 shooting incident. The alleged shooter was apprehended.

Brandon Zeris, Managing Editor

Shots were fired around 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Richland Township Police Station prompting two nearby schools to be  locked down while Pitt-Johnstown remained opened with no university-issued information on the shooting until nearly 11 hours later.

Kevin McGee, 45, fired at a police cruiser with a shotgun while police were inside the station at the Richland Municipal Building, 322 Schoolhouse Road, about 200 yards from the main Pitt-Johnstown campus entrance at Highfield Avenue.

Officers ordered McGee to drop the shotgun, and, when he did not, they shot him, according to District Attorney Kelly Callihan.

“Officers were able to get outside, get him into custody and into a secure position,” Callihan said.

Police said officers aided McGee, who was wounded in the abdomen, until an ambulance arrived. He was taken to Memorial Medical Center where he underwent surgery while being guarded by police.

McGee was charged with eight crimes, including two counts of attempted criminal homicide, two counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer and four counts of aggravated assault.

Many Pitt-Johnstown students remained unaware of what happened as the school remained under normal operations.

Richland Schools and Penn Highlands Community College were locked down until administrators there were notified that the situation was under control, police said.

Pitt-Johnstown was not locked down, and students were only told, in an email at 12:34 p.m. that a portion of Schoolhouse Road was closed.

Community Relations Associate Vice President Bob Knipple notified students, in an email at 9:14 p.m., that a shooting had taken place and that students had not been in any immediate danger.

Knipple said students had no reason to worry because campus police were in direct contact with Richland police.

“We had the benefit of some inside information,” he said.

Some students said they were upset because they didn’t approve of how the university handled the situation and there were reports of family members and friends contacting students and staff to determine  whether they were safe after broadcast reports were aired.

Freshman Megan Dively said she was surprised when she found out about the shooting.

“I didn’t even know about it for a while. My boyfriend texted me and told me that a shooting happened and that the other schools were locked down,” Dively said.

According to Sophomore Zach Palmer, administrators should do more to inform students when situations like this arise.

“It bothers me,” he said. “If he hadn’t been caught, he could have easily made his way to UPJ. We should have been at least informed of what was happening.”

Knipple said no other information needed to be released.

“We didn’t want to create a panic since the situation had resolved itself,” Knipple said.

Palmer said the emergency-notification system needs to be changed to ensure students’ safety.

“In the future, if something happens, measures should be taken to keep us indoors,” he said, adding that more information clarity is needed too.

“Being told a road is closed is not the same as a shooting,” he said.