Woman decorating church among dead in Blair County shooting spree
A Blair County gunman murdered three people on Friday morning and then led state police on a wild chase that injured three troopers before they killed the shooter.
Authorities released few details about the killing spree along a 1.5-mile swath of Juniata Valley Road in Frankstown Township.
They have not released the identities of the shooter or the victims and would not provide a time line of the shooter’s crimes.
Shocked family members leaving the Geeseytown Fire Hall gave some details but declined to give the names of loved ones they had lost.
Police are trying to determine whether the shooter randomly chose his targets. A candlelight vigil for them will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at Geeseytown Lutheran Church at Juniata Valley Road and Route 22.
Kimberly A. Scott, 58, of Duncansville was gunned down while she and another woman were decorating the Juniata Valley Gospel Church for a children’s Christmas party Friday morning, said the Rev. James McCaulley, whose brother served as the church’s pastor until his death Dec. 14.
After a bullet shattered a window, the shooter rushed inside the church and shot Scott.
“She was just the sweetest woman,” said John C. Bolger of his wife’s friend of 30 years. His funeral home in Martinsdale will hold services for her on Monday.
The tragedy is difficult for people to understand, including “After years and years in the ministry, I’m at a total loss to come up with any sense of reason,” McCaulley said. “It’s just off the charts. It defies all common sense and sensibility.”
State police said they were called about 9 a.m. for shots fired at several locations along Juniata Valley Road, a rural road in the small village of Geeseytown, a few miles east of Hollidaysburg.
One man was killed at a residence, and a second man was killed when the shooter rammed that man’s vehicle and fired shots at him.
As police rushed to respond, they came upon the killer’s pickup driving down the road. The man began firing upon police, and one trooper was shot in the wrist and the chest.
“Fortunately, he had his body armor on, and it did protect him,” state police Lt. Col. George Bivens said during a media briefing at the fire hall.
Another trooper was injured in the face by flying glass and bullet fragments when his police car was struck, police said.
The killer continued down the road, ramming a third trooper’s vehicle head-on, injuring that officer.
As the suspect began shooting again, all three troopers returned fire, killing the suspect, police said.
None of the troopers’ injuries was considered life-threatening.
Blair County District Attorney Rich Consiglio praised the troopers for pursuing the man, despite their injuries.
“We’re very fortunate we have three individuals who survived this after all they went through,” Bivens added.
Police do not know whether the shooter knew his victims.
“I don’t believe you’re going to find any biological relationship between the suspect and victims,” Consiglio said.
Bivens said the incident was “very violent.”
The shooter used multiple weapons.
“We have seized some weapons. We will be exploring ownership of those weapons,” Bivens said. “We will be looking at which weapons were used at which crime scene.”
Marie Brenneman, who identified herself as a cousin of one of the male victims, said the shooter was a neighbor of the two male victims and “they were uneasy around him.”
Her husband, Charles Brenneman, said his cousin and son-in-law were leaving to go Christmas shopping when the suspect appeared in the driveway and pointed a gun at them. Family members told him the two men attempted to flee but were gunned down.
“It’s something that you just don’t think can happen to you,” Charles Brenneman said.
Ashlee Clark, 26, and her 2-year-old daughter returned to their Juniata Valley Road home to find police had blocked their way home.
“I was panicked,” she said. “My daughter was scared because there were cops everywhere.”
She and her daughter walked the short distance home, and she unlocked her family’s bait shop to let troopers inside to stay warm.
McCaulley, who is pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Clymer, Indiana County, said he received a phone call from his nephew on Friday morning about the shooting.
He had just been at the Juniata Valley Gospel Church the day before to preside over his brother’s funeral. The Rev. D. David McCaulley had led the Juniata Valley congregation for 58 years.
James McCaulley said he was told the woman who died at the church had helped to prepare his brother’s funeral dinner in the same social hall where she was gunned down.
McCaulley said the church had been packed on Thursday for the funeral, and he shudders to think what could have happened if the shooter had come that day instead.
“I’m just glad that (my brother) was spared this experience,” McCaulley said. “This would have just absolutely devastated him. He had such love for the church and, from what I understand, these (volunteers) in particular. He had a very strong relationship with them because they were good workers and people that could be really counted on.”
Paul Peirce, Renatta Signorini and Jennifer Reeger are staff writers for Trib Total Media.