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Charges filed against man shot by police in Bell Township

posted Sep 19, 2014, 1:23 PM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Sep 19, 2014, 1:23 PM ]


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Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
A Pennsylvania State Police forensic services unit officer looks for evidence off of Stefaniak Drive in Bell Township after a police involved shooting the previous night. Photographed on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014.
 


 

 

State police obtained an arrest warrant early Thursday for the Monroeville man who they say shot at four police officers Wednesday evening in Bell Township.

Joshua Benjamin Jesse, 41, of Tyrolia Drive, remains in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds in an area hospital. Police have not said how many times Jesse was shot.

The warrant accuses him of four counts each of attempted homicide and aggravated assault against four Alle-Kiski Valley police officers. State police are heading the investigation.

The shooting happened about 7:20 p.m. along Stefaniak Drive in Bell Township after a 30-mile chase that began in Murrysville when police tried to stop Jesse so he could be taken for a mental health evaluation.

Police say Jesse led police on the chase from Route 22 and School Road in Murrysville, through Washington Township, and into Bell Township.

When police tried to stop him at Routes 819 and 66 in Washington Township, he turned his gray pickup onto Stefaniak Drive.

At a dead-end, Jesse jumped out of his truck, allegedly carrying a handgun, and was confronted by four officers from various local departments.

Trooper Stephen J. Limani said one officer fired a Taser at Jesse, who fired once from about 10 feet away, but missed.

At least three officers returned fire in self-defense.

Limani said Jesse received medical treatment at the scene and then was taken to a hospital where he is under guard by troopers.

Frank Stefaniak Sr., who lives nearby, said he was watching television in his home along Stefaniak Drive when he heard the shots fired.

“I was watching ‘Gunsmoke' — of all things — when I heard what sounded like two shots fired in rapid succession,” said Stefaniak, 84. “If (Jesse) shot first, the cops weren't messing around with him. I'm glad they got him, though, he could have come into any of these houses here with a gun.”

One house down, Frank Stefaniak Jr. and his wife, Lavina, were oblivious to the fracas taking place a couple hundred feet up the road. Neither heard the shots, and it wasn't until Stefaniak Jr. stepped outside to check on his elderly aunt and neighbor that he realized what had happened.

“It was like a Christmas scene with all the lights,” he said of the 30-or-so police vehicles that lined the normally quiet street. “I saw them loading the guy into an ambulance, I could hear him moaning in pain. He looked at me, and I just turned and looked away.”

Stefaniak Drive runs about 600 feet off Route 819 until it button-hooks at Beaver Run Creek and runs back against itself. The road's only four houses sit along that stretch of road along the Kiski River.

Jesse was cornered by police at the bend along the creek. Stefaniak Jr. said the outcome of the chase could have been different, had Jesse been more familiar with the terrain.

“I think he saw the creek and thought he had nowhere to go, so he got in a standoff there,” he said. “The creek is only ankle deep. He could have been on the other side like it was nothing. He wouldn't have even got his belt wet.”

Started in Monroeville

Monroeville police Chief Kenneth “Doug” Cole said officers were called to Jesse's house about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Jesse's family members told police they were concerned about his welfare and that he may have been on his way to St. Marys in Elk County.

Monroeville police radioed area officers to stop Jesse. He was spotted in Murrysville and the chase began.

Cole said he couldn't say if police had been called to Jesse's Tyrolia Drive home before Wednesday.

News of the chase and shooting came as a shock to Jesse's neighbors.

Tyrolia Drive resident Judy Ribic, 71, described Jesse and his wife as “wonderful” neighbors who would help her and other older neighbors.

“That neighbor needed something,” Ribic said, pointing to other homes nestled in the cul de sac. “He'd always help you out.”

Ribic said she was aware that Jesse and his wife argued on Wednesday but, otherwise, they seemed happily married with two young sons and had recently celebrated an anniversary.

Ribic said Jesse had a hip replacement about a month and a half ago and had been spending a lot of time at home recovering. She thought he left town to go to his camp, where he would go to shoot guns, to get out of his house in Monroeville.

Staff writer Gideon Bradshaw contributed to this report. Chuck Biedka and Braden Ashe are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Biedka at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com. Reach Ashe at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com



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