District Attorney Adams: Officer Justified in Discharge of Firearm in Barricaded Gunman Incident in West Hempfield Township
A police officer who fired at a man during a barricaded gunman situation in West Hempfield Township was justified in discharging his weapon, Lancaster County District Attorney Heather L. Adams has ruled.
The shot did not strike the man, who exited his house and raised a rifle toward the direction of officers who were surrounding the perimeter of the home. After the shot, the man retreated inside his residence. The District Attorney’s Office reviews all officer involved shootings regardless of whether the targeted individual was struck or not.
A review of the evidence gathered by the Pennsylvania State Police indicated that 49-year-old-Shawn D. Stryker, initially refused to come out of his house, located on Goldfinch Drive, Columbia, after police had been called as a result of a domestic incident, resulting in the deployment of the Lancaster County Special Emergency Response Team (SERT). During the standoff, SERT officers observed Stryker inside his house with a weapon peering out different windows.
At one point, Stryker came out of the house onto a porch carrying a rifle. Stryker then began to raise the rifle in a shooting stance in the direction of SERT officers located at the perimeter of the rear of the house. In response, the officer shot at Stryker to cover other SERT officers who were positioned in the direction Stryker was facing when he raised his rifle. The shot from the officer hit a stair leading to an above ground pool off the back of the house, ultimately missing Stryker. Stryker immediately retreated into the house.
Stryker was eventually arrested after exiting the front of his house, again with the rifle, but placed the weapon on the ground after being given commands from law enforcement. However, Stryker continued to walk toward the officers, disobeying repeated commands to stop and turn around. Ultimately, Stryker was controlled by a police K-9, which allowed police to successfully, and safely, arrest Stryker.
In accordance with internal policy, the District Attorney’s Office will not name the officer because there are no criminal charges being filed as the shooting was deemed justified.
The incident began on January 3, 2021, at 11:45 a.m., when a woman called 911 and reported that when she awoke, Stryker was standing next to her with a rifle in one hand and a handgun in another. The female reported that Stryker then loaded the rifle and pointed it at her and had made threats to harm himself. West Hempfield officers responded and spoke to the female, who had left the house. An officer then called Stryker to attempt to have Stryker exit the residence, but he refused to do so.
West Hempfield Township Officers immediately called SERT for assistance and began evacuating neighboring residents from the area. SERT negotiators arrived on scene and attempted numerous times to communicate with Stryker via telephone and social media. Negotiators did speak with Stryker on three occasions during the incident, but Stryker refused to come out of the residence.
After a prolonged period of time and with additional failed attempts to both speak to Stryker and to hail Stryker outside the residence, SERT began deploying a series of munitions inside the residence while announcements for Stryker to exit the residence continued. Officers then observed Stryker repeatedly peering out windows and scanning the area with a rifle raised to his shoulder.
Stryker then approached a rear door and cracked the door still holding the rifle. A bright, motion-activated light came on when Stryker opened the door to the residence, which caused nearby SERT officers to have to retreat from their location. Stryker then stepped onto a covered porch carrying the rifle and began walking around on the porch. As Stryker turned and walked toward the rear of the residence, he began to raise the rifle in the direction of the retreating SERT officers. At that time, the SERT officer fired because Stryker posed an immediate deadly threat to the other SERT officers who were positioned on the back side of the house.
The shot fired by the SERT officer ultimately hit a railing to nearby steps and impacted the siding of the house, missing Stryker, who ducked and retreated into the residence. Shortly thereafter, officers heard two shots fired from inside the residence and within minutes of one another. A negotiator was able to make contact with Stryker and confirmed that he was not injured by any of the shots fired. After Stryker retreated inside the residence, Officers again observed Stryker peering out the windows of the residence.
“The suspect clearly placed SERT members in danger of death or serious bodily injury and created a situation where the officer was justified to use lethal force in defense of others,” District Attorney Adams stated, “The entire SERT team showed great restraint in dealing with an armed subject who had twice fired at police and refused to surrender over a more than nine-hour period.”
Stryker was successfully taken into custody at the end of a nine-hour standoff. The investigation revealed that Stryker’s rifle was loaded and had 23 additional rounds in the magazine. In addition, two shell casings, consistent with ammunition from the rifle, were found in the house as well as two identifiable bullet holes in the windows in the rear of the residence from the shots being fired from inside the residence. A bullet entry mark was found near the rear of the property into a hedge which was consistent with the trajectory of a round being fired from inside the house.
Stryker is currently charged with simple assault and recklessly endangering another person in relation to his actions with the female victim and six counts of felony aggravated assault, as well as recklessly endangering another person and possessing an instrument of crime for the incident relating to SERT officers. All charges are pending in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas. Stryker is presumed innocent.
Pennsylvania State Police investigated the shooting incident.