York-area man guilty of shooting at trooper after robbing Shrewsbury Walmart
Shrewsbury Walmart robber Thomas Markowski claimed that he didn't intend to shoot a state trooper as he left the store with a sawed-off shotgun in his left hand and four boxes of fentanyl patches in his right.
The 60-year-old Markowski testified in his own defense at the end of his non-jury trial Tuesday, May 21, before York County Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness.
After hearing from six prosecution witnesses and the defendant on Monday and Tuesday, Ness took about 10 minutes to find Markowski guilty of all charges against him — including attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
That charge carries a mandatory state prison sentence of 20 to 40 years, according to senior deputy prosecutor Chuck Murphy, who tried the case.
Ness also found Markowski guilty of robbery, aggravated assault, assault on a law-enforcement officer, theft, possessing an instrument of crime, reckless endangerment and possession of a prohibited offensive weapon.
Under questioning by defense attorney Bill Graff, the defendant admitted that less than an hour before he robbed the Walmart pharmacy the night of April 7, 2016, he used a jigsaw and grinder to remove about 6 inches from the barrel of his 12-gauge shotgun and part of the stock butt.
Markowski testified he'd been using fentanyl patches that were prescribed to him for 10 years and was addicted.
Sawed-off shotgun: He also testified he shortened his shotgun so his wife, who drove him to the store, wouldn't know he was carrying a weapon. But under cross-examination by Murphy, Markowski admitted he also modified the weapon so he could take it into Walmart in a plastic bag, undetected.
Markowski admitted he knew he didn't have an updated prescription for fentanyl patches and that he called the Walmart pharmacy before having his wife drive him there to make sure they had the patches he wanted.
He testified he took the shotgun because if he didn't get the opioid patches, he planned to "put the barrel under my chin and kill myself."
Markowski also claimed he couldn't shoot a cop because of the way he was raised. He told the judge that his father and two brothers were police officers.
He neglected to mention during his testimony that he spent five or six years as a Baltimore City police officer as a young man. Graff said Markowski spent the bulk of his adult work life in the private sector, including in construction.
Markowski testified he was walking out of the Walmart when he saw a cop — state police Trooper Darrio Parham — walking in. Parham was already in the Walmart parking lot when he was dispatched to Walmart for the robbery.
Pointed gun, got shot: Testimony from Parham and others, as well as Walmart security video, showed Markowski didn't stop when he saw the trooper; he continued walking toward Parham and pointed the shotgun at the trooper's stomach.
Markowski admitted he told Parham, "Get out of my way," and that Parham told him repeatedly to drop his gun.
When the two men were about 3 feet from each other, the trooper "grabbed" the shotgun "and it went off," the defendant claimed.
Parham escaped injury and returned fire, shooting Markowski once in the chest.
Prosecutor Murphy, on cross-examination, got Markowski to admit that he actually loaded the weapon in the pharmacy when he thought workers there were taking too long meeting his robbery demand.
The defendant also admitted the shotgun's safety was off, that he had his finger on the trigger and that he knew enough about gun safety to know that you shouldn't put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to shoot someone.
"There was only one thing between you and getting out of Walmart," Murphy said to Markowski — and that was the state trooper.
Robber's intent: Graff argued during his closing argument that to be guilty of attempted murder of a police officer, Markowski needed to have the intent to do that and that the shotgun fired "for a combination of reasons."
But Murphy argued Markowski "was ready and willing" to shoot and reminded the judge of Parham's testimony.
"The only way he was getting out of Walmart was to shoot Trooper Parham," Murphy said.
Parham testified that he pushed the barrel of Markowski's shotgun to the side, away from his body, and that Markowski pushed back in an effort to aim the firearm at the trooper.
Murphy said Markowski's testimony was "not credible at all."
"He can't explain or answer the tough questions," the prosecutor argued.
Ness set sentencing for June 24.
Markowski, of Crestview Drive in York Township, spent most of his adult life in Maryland before moving to York County.
The robbery: Markowski approached the pharmacy counter in a motorized wheelchair owned by Walmart, the type available at the front of stores for customer use.
He demanded four boxes of the opioid patches, said he had a gun and told pharmacy worker Terry White she had five seconds to hand over the fentanyl, charging documents allege.
White testified that when the pharmacist asked where Markowski's prescription was, White told the pharmacist, "He doesn't have a prescription — he has a gun."
Markowski abandoned the wheelchair after the robbery and was leaving Walmart on foot when he was confronted by Parham, testimony revealed.
He remains in York County Prison on $2 million bail, awaiting sentencing.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.