Masontown shooter had PFA, was allowed to keep gun
After Patrick S. Dowdell of Masontown allegedly threatened his wife with a gun last month when she asked for a divorce, she asked a Fayette County judge for a protection from abuse order that would force her husband to give up his weapon.
Judge Joseph M. George Jr. issued the order, prohibiting Dowdell from going near his wife, but allowed him to keep his gun, according to court paperwork.
Dowdell, 62, of Masontown, shot and injured four people with a handgun in a district judge’s office on Wednesday before being killed by an unidentified German Township police officer.
State police in Uniontown on Thursday confirmed Dowdell’s identity.
Dowdell was due in District Judge Albert Shimshock’s office in Masontown on Wednesday on charges of strangulation and domestic violence.
According to court paperwork, his wife told him Aug. 24 that she wanted a divorce.
In her petition to the judge, she said he responded by twisting her arm until she dropped her phone, telling her that she could not call 911 and that there would be no divorce.
He had a gun in his hand, she said.
The next day, he allegedly wrapped a belt around her neck and pulled it tight, choking her. He again said there would be no divorce and “he would take out whoever he needed to take out” to prevent it, his wife recounted in court documents.
She managed to get away and call police.
Two days later, she petitioned George for a PFA, including a request that his gun be relinquished.
The judge issued a temporary PFA that day but did not include the language about the gun. Instead, the PFA says law enforcement officials should seize Dowdell’s weapons if he violates the terms of the order.
Dowdell was arrested for the alleged assault the next day and released on $10,000 bond.
George issued a final version of the PFA on Sept. 10, with similar language regarding firearms.
George and Fayette County Sheriff James Custer could not be reached for comment Thursday.
It is unknown whether Dowdell owned the handgun he used in Wednesday’s shootings.
The Tribune-Review found in March that about a quarter of local PFA orders require weapon seizures.
Dowdell shot Sgt. R. Scott Miller of the Masontown Police Department and three civilians — two men and a woman, in the lobby of Shimshock’s office after 2 p.m. Wednesday. All were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.
His motives are under investigation, but police said he was not targeting the judge or court employees.
Shimshock’s office will remain closed until further notice, the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts announced Thursday.
Cases scheduled to be heard there will be moved to surrounding court offices — in German Township, Nicholson Township, Point Marion, Springhill Township and Masontown Borough.
Staff writers Deb Erdley and Paul Peirce contributed. Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Soolseem.