SHARON Ignoring pleas, man kills self in car
A nearby school went into lockdown after the shooting.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa. -- Bill Griffith said he didn't know what was going on when he saw police cars following a car along East State Street in front of his business.
Griffith, owner of Kloos Service Station at East State Street and Wengler Avenue, said the sound of the sirens shortly before 1 p.m. drew him to the front of his building, where he saw the car make a sudden turn into an alley just past his building.
It then turned into a second alley behind the station to Wengler Avenue before coming to a stop as it approached East State Street again, Griffith said.
Case Avenue Elementary School and St. Joseph Church are directly across State Street from that location.
"They had cruisers everywhere up in here," he said, gesturing broadly.
Griffith said he and two others in the station went to the windows to see what was going on, but within moments, a police officer rushed in to tell them to get down away from the windows.
The man in the car, Robert L. Powell, 64, of 632 E. State St., had a gun, and moments later, shot himself in the head, police said.
Griffith said he was sure he heard only a single shot.
How it started
Police Chief Thomas Burke said police got a call around 10:50 a.m. Tuesday from a woman who said that Powell, whom she knew, had just forced his way into her apartment at 55 W. Connelly Blvd. and held a gun to her head.
Police said the woman was unhurt, but by the time they arrived, Powell had fled to his residence in an East State Street apartment building.
Burke said Capt. Detective Matt McComb and Patrolman Jeff Jennings went to that location around 12:45 p.m. to talk to Powell and spotted him walking in a parking area behind the apartment building.
He got into a car and drove toward State Street, putting a handgun to his head when he spotted the officers, Burke said.
Police followed. It wasn't really a chase because Powell drove slowly, Burke said.
When Powell stopped after driving around the Kloos Service Station, police tried to approach the car but he put the handgun to his head again and they backed off, Burke said.
They tried to negotiate with him, urging him to put the gun down, but he refused and, in less than two minutes, he picked up a .12 gauge shotgun he had in his car, put it to his head and pulled the trigger, killing himself instantly, Burke said.
Burke said a loaded .22 caliber revolver and a knife also were found in the car.
He said police had no previous dealing with Powell other than a DUI arrest Saturday.
William Dunsmore, principal of Case Avenue Elementary, said the school went into a lockdown mode as soon as officials learned of the shooting, and every effort was made to divert children from the side of the building facing the shooting scene.
The lockdown lasted just over an hour, he added.