By: Don Shaw email: don.shaw@pennsylvaniachronicle.com (570) 543-2961

Lancaster DA: Troopers justified in shooting at, wounding fleeing fugitive

Lancaster DA: Troopers justified in shooting at, wounding fleeing fugitive

Lancaster, PA

The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office says it reviewed a February 19, 2019, incident in Paradise Township that involved Pennsylvania State Police troopers firing and wounding a suspect authorities say  was driving his vehicle in the direction of police to escape apprehension. The District Attorney’s reviewed reports, interviews, and video regarding Jeromey Chad Barnes’ fleeing attempt and made the following determination: The police use of force was justified because Barnes, in a vehicle, was aware police were at the location to arrest him and he responded by driving at police and police vehicles, striking one of the police vehicles in the process. 

Barnes, 38, was wounded once in the back as three troopers  fired at his vehicle. Barnes was treated at a hospital.

The review of use of force was conducted and corresponding justification ruling was made in 2019, during previous District Attorney administration. As a result of the incident, Barnes was charged with numerous offenses, including reckless endangerment regarding his driving toward a state trooper, which prompted the three troopers to open fire.

Barnes was convicted following a trial in February 2020 of misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment, resisting arrest and institutional vandalism. Barnes was sentenced on April 29 for the February 2019 incident and a separate fleeing incident in January 2019. His total sentence was 1¼ to 2 years in prison (minus one day), plus five years of probation. 

The following is a narrative of the  February 18-19, 2019, incident released by the District Attorney’s office.

Barnes had a felony arrest warrant at the time of the incident. A month prior, he fled police when they approached him about stolen registration on his vehicle. Barnes drove his vehicle into a snowy embankment and fled on foot into a wooded area. Police, from prior contacts, knew Barnes to be a drug user and had reason to believe he would be in possession of a firearm.

On the night of February 18, 2019, police encountered Barnes at a store in East Lampeter Township. Barnes ran and fled in a gold Porsche SUV. Police located that vehicle at a home on Lincoln Highway East. After obtaining a search warrant, police determined Barnes was not at the home, but obtained information that he would be at a vacant property at 336 South Belmont Road in Paradise Township. Police were told Barnes’ vehicle is a spray-painted Pontiac minivan.

Pennsylvania State Police, in three marked patrol vehicles, went to that location in the early morning of February 19, 2019. The minivan was parked there and not running. Police approached and determined Barnes was in the driver’s seat. Troopers identified themselves and shouted directives for Barnes to get out of the vehicle. Barnes turned on the vehicle and accelerated in the direction of a trooper who was on foot. The minivan struck a police vehicle as Barnes was attempting to flee.

As Barnes drove toward a trooper and other police, Troopers Gawel, Hood and Laskoskie opened fire. The minivan drove across Belmont Road and crashed into some trees. Eight rounds struck the minivan; one entered Barnes’ back and exited through his shoulder. A female was a passenger in the minivan. She was not wounded. She told police that Barnes had tried to break into the South Belmont Road property, but was unsuccessful.

When police arrived, Barnes told her not to move because police were there. The female said she was aware police were there before troopers approached the minivan. This information led to determinations that: – Barnes knew police were at the location to arrest him. – Barnes attempted to elude arrest. – Barnes presented a grave danger to the trooper on foot and other police by driving in their direction. A team of Lancaster County Detectives responded to the scene early that morning to investigate the incident in conjunction with Pennsylvania State Police Investigators from Troop J. County Detectives worked with State Police Investigators throughout the investigation.