Schools locked down while police chased suspects

Sean Philip Cotter, and Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

Police from several departments in York County swarmed the area behind Queensgate Shopping Center and the York Jewish Community Center on Wednesday afternoon, conducting a search with at least one K-9 search dog.

Police search the area of Sherwood Drive in York Township for suspects a York City homicide. John A. Pavoncello photo

York City Police Lt. Troy Bankert, who supervises the city's detective bureau, said officers had been pursuing a car believed to be involved with several shots-fired cases in the city.

The chase, which began around 2:11 p.m., ended up in the area behind the JCC, on Sherwood Road, where the four males riding in the car jumped out and took off on foot into the woods northeast of where the road ends, Bankert said.

Radio transmissions through the York County 911 Center stated two of the males ran to Interstate 83 and were picked up there, but York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said that hasn't been confirmed.

"We tracked them through the woods — at least one or two of them — and the trail took us right to 83," he said. "It's a good possibility, but we haven't been able to verify it."

At the scene about 4:30 p.m., Bankert said none of the four had been caught. A short time later, officers started filtering back from the woods — city and York Area Regional police officers wearing vests and York County sheriff's deputies armed with tactical weapons.

Bankert said police seized the car the four males abandoned, but gleaned little evidence from it.

Police from several area departments search for two suspects on Sherwood Dr. in York Township, Wednesday April 13, 2016. 
John A. Pavoncello photo

Shots-fired cases: The car police were chasing was a vehicle known to be involved in some recent shots-fired cases in York City, according to Kahley.

"We're going after the people we believe are bringing violence to the city, and we're going to keep on this until they are captured," he said. "We're not putting up with it."

He said investigators believe they know the identities of the four males.

City officers, York Area Regional Police, Spring Garden Township Police and others searched the area with a search dog, including in the Hollywood Heights area of Spring Garden Township.

York Suburban School District Superintendent Michele Merkle said the high school and Valley View Elementary were on lockdown until 5 p.m. Students were allowed to move around within their buildings, but no one was allowed to leave the schools while the police looked for people in the area who might be armed, she said.

She praised the students for being cooperative and said police officers had been in the high school much of the time, keeping the administration appraised of the situation. She said they lifted the lockdown after police searched the grid of nearby streets and found no danger.

The JCC was on a partial lockdown, according to an employee there. Spring Garden Township Police said they also suggested other schools in the township go on lockdown, as well, including York City Schools' Phineas Davis K-8, York Country Day School, York Catholic High School, Penn State York and York College.

Possible intruder? While all this was going on, Chris Kauffman, a local Realtor who lives in Hollywood Heights, was doing renovation work in the basement of a home she recently bought on Ruxton Road, also in Hollywood Heights. She had her doors and windows open while renovating and heard footsteps in her house, she said.

Kauffman — a longtime York Dispatch employee — said when she called out, she heard the screen door slam. She said she didn't think anything of it until she learned about the search a half-hour later. Then she grabbed a nail-studded board for protection, fled the house and called 911.

Responding officers searched the house and told her it was possible the person or people fleeing from police were looking for car keys or a place to hide, she said.

"Luckily, I had my car keys in my pocket," Kauffman said.

Nothing found: Spring Garden Township Police Chief George Swartz confirmed officers were called to the Ruxton Road house.

"We checked the home, but there was nobody there," he said. "I have nothing at this point to establish or lead me to believe that these individuals tried to get into any home in the Hollywood Heights area."

Resident Gerald Koller said he returned home to find his neighborhood crawling with cops. He said they were at first focused on a car with Florida tags.

"They drug out some car," he said, pointing to tire marks leading away from the spot.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.