A man scheduled for a hearing in a domestic violence case at a Pennsylvania courthouse shot his wife and three other people before he was killed by police in a shootout Wednesday afternoon. Patrick Shaun Dowdell has been identified as the gunman in the shooting at the Masontown magistrate’s office, WTAE-TV reports.
The four victims, including Masontown Police Sergeant Scott Miller and Dowdell’s wife, two other men and a woman, are expected to survive, police said at a press conference. The shooting happened about 2:30 p.m., according to the Observer-Reporter, a local newspaper.
The 61-year-old Dowdell, who went by Shaun Dowdell, was arrested in August on charges of aggravated assault, strangulation, terroristic threats, simple assault and harassment, Fayette County court records show. He was scheduled to appear at the courthouse at 1 p.m. on September 19 for a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge Daniel C. Shimshock. The victim in that case was his 39-year-old wife.
Here’s what you need to know about Patrick Shaun Dowdell and the shooting:
1. Police Said Dowdell Chased a Woman Into the Building & Opened Fire Before He Was Shot & Killed by a German Township Police Officer
The “chaotic” scene began Wednesday afternoon with the suspect, identified as Patrick Shaun Dowdell, chasing a blond woman into the courthouse building at 1 East Church Street, according to the Observer-Reporter. Witnesses and police said it appeared the gunman was targeting the woman. Photos and videos from the scene show the shattered glass front door of the building.
A witness, who gave his name only as Todd, told the newspaper he was sitting in the waiting room when he heard gunshots. He ended up in a clerk’s office with the woman who had been chased into the building. Todd told the newspaper the woman had been shot in the arm and he used his belt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. “He (the gunman) was targeting her but got other people,” Todd told the Observer-Reporter.
“He was shooting at everyone,” another witness, Rosa Goff told the newspaper. “He looked scary. I thought I was… The bullet just missed me.”
A police officer, Sergeant Scott Miller, of the Masontown Police Department, engaged the shooter and was shot in the hand during the exchange, police said at a press conference. Miller is expected to survive. The three other victims also suffered non-life-threatening injuries, according to authorities.
Other officers responded and Dowdell was shot and killed. The unidentified officer who shot him is an officer with the German Township Police Department, authorities said.
According to WPXI-TV, the courthouse was packed with attorneys, staff and people waiting for hearings. There were 41 scheduled to be held in Judge Daniel Shimshock’s courtroom on September 19, the newspaper reports.
“People scrambling and crawling on top of each other to get to an open room for safety, while others were trying to close the door,” Linda Endsley told the newspaper. Eric Randolph, an attorney, told WTAE-TV, “It was the most intense, frightening sensation I’ve ever had in my life.”
Police said at a press conference Dowdell was armed with a handgun and fired six to eight shots.
2. Dowdell Was Accused of Strangling His Wife With a Belt During an August Domestic Dispute & Was Scheduled for a Hearing at the Courthouse
Shaun Dowdell was arrested on August 25, 2018, on domestic violence charges, including aggravated assault, strangulation and terroristic threats, all felonies, and simple assault and harassment, both misdemeanors. According to WPXI-TV, Dowdell was accused of strangling his 39-year-old wife during the incident.
On August 27, the Uniontown Herald-Standard reported that Dowdell had choked his wife and threatened to kill her after she told him she was going to divorce him.
Dowdell had been arrested in Masontown, but not by the police officer who was shot during the courthouse incident, the news station reports. He had applied for a public defender, court records show.
3. He Was Released on $10,000 Bail After Being Arrested & Ordered to Stay Away From His Wife
Dowdell was unable to post bail and remained in jail until August 28, when he was released after posting $10,000 bond. Court records show that a protective order was issued requiring that Dowdell stay away from his wife, who was the victim in the domestic incident.
Court records show his first court hearing, a preliminary arraignment, was scheduled for August 28 before Judge Jennifer Jeffries. A second hearing was set for September 5, but the preliminary hearing was continued until September 19, when he was scheduled to appear at 1 p.m. before Judge Daniel Shimshock.
Police said at a press conference that they do not believe Dowdell was targeting the judge or police officers.
4. Dowdell, Who Is Not Believed to Have Had a Prior Criminal Record, Worked as a Mechanic & Had Been Married to His Wife Since at Least 2013
Dowdell does not appear to have a criminal record other than traffic citations, according to a public records search conducted by Heavy. He worked as an auto mechanic, WTAE-TV reports.
According to his wife’s Facebook page, Dowdell had been married to her since at least 2013. She owns a tanning salon and pet grooming business in Masontown, according to WTAE. His wife posted on Facebook on Wednesday after the shooting, “Just want everyone to know I am ok…the cops have my phone so if you’re trying to contact me I’m sorry. … My husband shot me and 3 others at a court hearing.”
Dowdell had previously lived in Uniontown and Leckrone, Pennsylvania, and had lived on Poplar Street in Masontown since 2013. He went to Laurel Highlands High School in Uniontown, graduating in 1974.
5. The Shooting Remains Under Investigation, but Police Say the Officer Saved ’30 to 40′ Other People by Killing Dowdell
Officials said the German Township police officer who fatally shot Dowdell saved 30 to 40 other people by rushing into the danger and killing the gunman. “It’s unfortunate that someone lost their life, but I’m proud of my officers, and everyone did what they were trained to do,” German Township Police Chief Dave Hromada said at a news conference. He added, “Obviously there are a lot of mixed emotions when you’re in that.”
Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower said at a press conference, “In this case, as is so often the case, the German Township police officer ran toward the danger, not away. He protected over 30 to 40 people from injury or death. These police officers and these emergency management people risk their lives every day … and today they all were a shining light to our community.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in a statement, Our police put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. These senseless acts must stop.”
The incident remains under investigation and any witnesses or people with information are asked to call the Pennsylvania State Police at 724-439-7111.