Police: Security cameras show fatal shooting of Indiana County gun shop owner
A Saltsburg man tried to cover up the slaying of an Indiana County gun shop owner on New Year’s Eve when he made a call for help to 911, a state trooper testified Friday.
Trooper Robert Valyo testified during a preliminary hearing that Jack O. Edmundson Jr., 43, telephoned dispatchers in Indiana after firing four shots that killed Tunnelton gun shop owner Frank S. Petro, 62, on Dec. 31, claiming that Edmundson was the victim.
In the telephone call, Edmundson, a former Lancaster County drug officer, claimed Petro was the aggressor after Edmundson went into the shop and asked about brass for a memorial piece he was working on, Valyo said.
But two video cameras Petro had installed in his shop told a different story, Valyo said during questioning by Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty,
The video footage shows that Edmundson entered the shop, reached behind the counter and grabbed a small-caliber gun that he used to shoot Petro following a brief argument.
“His whole 911 call was deceptive,” Valyo said. “He tried to maintain that Mr. Petro was the aggressor.”
After listening to about an hour of testimony, Indiana District Judge Guy Haberl ordered Edmundson to stand trial on counts of first-degree murder, arson and aggravated assault.
After the hearing, Dougherty said Edmundson may face the death penalty.
“We’re still making that determination and will be making that decision shortly. I will say that the death penalty is definitely still on the table,” the district attorney said.
Valyo also testified that evidence collected at the scene showed Edmundson parked his vehicle more than 1,000 feet from Frank’s Gun Shop at the Tunnellton Inn, walked through some woods to the gun shop and confronted Petro inside about 1:30 p.m.
Troopers photographed footprints Edmundson left in the snow.
Valyo said the video shows a heated exchange between the pair, then Edmundson pointing the handgun at him.
“Mr. Petro attempted to swipe away the weapon … but Mr. Edmundson steps back, points toward Mr. Petro’s center mass and fires. … You can see the muzzle flash twice,” Valyo said.
Coroner Jerry Overman said an autopsy showed Petro was shot four times — in the abdomen, shoulder, neck and “once in the chin.”
Valyo indicated during his testimony that after Petro had been shot twice, he rallied and again attempted to disarm Edmundson. The two shots to Petro’s head were fired several minutes after the initial gunshots.
Valyo said Edmundson took Petro’s wallet and removed some items from it.
“(Edmundson) then retrieves black powder (gunpowder) from inside the store and spreads it down a hallway and over Mr. Petro. Then he takes out a clear liquid and pours it over the victim and down the hallway,” Valyo said.
Initial tests on the liquid indicate it may have been flammable nail polish remover, Valyo testified.
State police believe Edmundson’s plan was to set fire to the store, but he was shot in his right thigh during the second scuffle with Petro and telephoned 911 for help, according to the criminal complaint.
“When (Edmundson) called, he told dispatchers he works as a paramedic and they needed to send a medical helicopter right away. He attempted to maintain throughout that Mr. Petro was the aggressor,” Valyo said.
Edmundson attended the hearing in a wheelchair, wearing yellow prison fatigues. He was shot in the right thigh during the struggle with Petro and was hospitalized at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh for about a month.
He was sent back to the Indiana County Jail Friday without bond.
After the hearing, Petro’s wife, Janet, told reporters she is thankful for the diligence of state police, Dougherty’s office and the county sheriff’s department.
“It’s been extremely hard for us. Frank, all his life, he was devoted to the safety of people, whether it was working in the mines, then as fire chief (with Saltsburg), and then as trainer with the state DEP in mine rescue,” she said.
“Once you met Frank, if he liked you, he’d do anything for you and he was always your friend … just a wonderful man. But Jack took all that away from us,” she said.
“Our two boys will never be able to go hunting again with their dad, and our grandkids will never be able to bounce on Frank’s knee,” she said.
“You know how you could take a glass ornament and throw it down on the sidewalk and it shatters everywhere? That’s how I feel. That’s what Jack has done to our family,” she said.
Edmundson’s attorneys, Gary Knaresboro and Mike Marshall of Du Bois, declined comment afterward.
Dougherty said his office also is investigating an alleged raffle scam in which Edmundson extorted about $130,000 from Petro.
Edmundson is a former detective for the Lancaster County Drug Task force and served one year in prison after he was convicted of stealing $7,500 in platinum coins from one drug dealer, and two telephone calling cards from another. He was paroled in 2001, according to on-line court records.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or [email protected].