Rescue mission: Man killed by police cruiser a 'sweet soul'
- Raymond Updegraff, 74, was fatally struck Wednesday night by a Northeastern Regional police cruiser.
- He's been homeless for many years, according to LifePath Christian Ministries' executive director.
- Updegraff was kind, gentle and a sweet soul, Executive Director Matt Carey said.
Staff members and volunteers of LifePath Christian Ministries are grieving the death of Raymond Updegraff.
“He was one of the kindest, nicest, gentlest men you’ll ever meet,” LifePath Executive Director Matt Carey said. “It’s a sad day for this ministry, it really is.”
Updegraff, 74, had been homeless for many years.
He was killed Wednesday night in East Manchester Township when he was struck by a police cruiser while trying to cross the road mid-block in the 4200 block of North George Street, state police said. That’s near McDonald’s and Roses supermarket.
It happened at 10:24 p.m., according to the York County Coroner’s Office, which stated Updegraff was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Northeastern Regional police officer who was driving the southbound unmarked cruiser was on routine patrol at the time, state police said.
The officer, whose name has not been released, is now on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure in such cases, according to Northeastern Regional Police Chief Bryan Rizzo.
The chief referred other questions to state police, who are conducting an independent investigation into the incident.
Longtime client: Updegraff was a longtime client of LifePath Christian Ministries, formerly the York Rescue Mission, Carey said. The ministry is dedicated to assisting the homeless and helping to improve their lives, not only with immediate needs but also with job training and counseling.
“We have been providing Ray Updegraff a place to come for food, clothing and shelter for well over 15 years,” Carey said. “Nov. 29 was the last time he stayed at the shelter.”
He described Updegraff as being generous to a fault.
“When he had money, sometimes people would take advantage of him on the street, and that upset me,” Carey said. “Ray was just a kind soul who ran into troubles.”
Like some homeless people, Updegraff’s lifestyle was in large part his own choice, according to Carey.
“People make a decision every day as to what kind of life they want to lead,” he said. “We’re here to respect that. … We’re all God’s children, and I can’t force anyone to get into our program.”
LifePath’s transformation program can last for six months to a year and works with clients on job skills and training, as well as on the issues that brought clients to the shelter in the first place.
Safety net: When Updegraff had money, he would sometimes stay in motel rooms or rent a room for perhaps a week, according to Carey. But when his money ran out, he’d return to the shelter.
“And we were always here for him,” Carey said. “I was more concerned with his well-being than with trying to change his lifestyle. We would pray with Ray, we would talk to Ray, but our biggest impact on Ray was being able to give him a warm bed, a warm meal and clothing.”
Updegraff used the ministry as his mailing address, even though sometimes he wouldn’t check in for a month or more at a time, Carey said.
He also suffered from a number of medical conditions, according to LifePath’s executive director, who said being homeless is physically hard on a body.
“Ray would get public drunkenness or disorderly conduct citations, and there’d be times when police would bring him to our doorstep at 2 in the morning because he was on the streets,” Carey said. “Sometimes probation would call me on the phone and ask if there was room for him. And we’d always find a way to find a spot for Ray.”
‘Sweet soul’: Carey said he never saw Updegraff so intoxicated that he was falling over and described the man as being cooperative and “just a very sweet soul.”
Updegraff, like other clients, was a reminder to staffers of why LifePath exists — “to love, honor and serve all people,” Carey said.
He said staff members who had a lot of interaction with Updegraff, including kitchen workers and the chaplain, are taking his death hard.
An autopsy is set for 8 a.m. Friday at Allentown’s Lehigh Valley Hospital, according to York County Coroner Pam Gay.
The York County District Attorney’s Office asked state police to conduct an independent probe, according to police.
Once the investigation is complete, state police will forward their findings to District Attorney Tom Kearney, who will then decide what, if any, action is appropriate, according to Kyle King, spokesman for the DA’s office.
How to help: Carey said LifePath Christian Ministries can only provide as much support for York County’s homeless as the community provides for LifePath.
The ministry is looking for donations of food, clothing and cash, he confirmed.
“We’re really short on men’s winter clothes, and we can always use men’s jackets and all kinds of winter gear,” Carey said.
People can donate online at LifePath’s website or can take food, clothing, toiletries and other items to one of 14 drop-off sites, he said. Or mail checks and money orders to LifePath Christian Ministries, P.O. Box 1968, York 17405-1968.
More information on how to help can be found on the ministry’s website.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.