PSP: Hopewell Twp. man fatally shot after firing on troopers

Liz Evans Scolforo

State troopers fatally shot a 79-year-old Stewartstown-area man who fired on them first early Monday, according to a state police spokesman.

An autopsy will be performed Wednesday morning at Allentown's Lehigh Valley Hospital on the body of Robert Becker, of 254 Hollow Road in Hopewell Township, according to the York County Coroner's Office.

Robert Becker, 79, was pronounced dead the morning of Monday, April 24, 2017, after exchanging gunfire with state police outside his home on Hollow Road in Hopewell Twp. Troopers responded to Becker’s home about 4 a.m. that day after Becker called 911 and said he had killed Satan. York County DA Tom Kearney on Aug. 1, 2017, ruled troopers were justified in fatally shooting Becker, after the man fired at one of them.
(Jason Addy photo)

Four troopers involved will remain on administrative duty until the investigation is complete, according to Trooper Brent Miller, a state police spokesman.

Miller said that doesn't mean all four troopers shot at Becker; it simply means all four troopers were at the scene and directly involved in the call. Administrative duty basically means office duty, he confirmed.

Miller could not immediately say how many troopers shot Becker and noted the investigation is ongoing.

Becker suffered from mental-health issues and was known to troopers at the York barracks in Loganville, according to police.

"(Troopers) had been out there two previous times for mental health-related incidents," Miller said.

What happened: Shortly after 3:30 a.m. Monday, Becker called the York County 911 Center, "threatening violence against law enforcement and emergency personnel that responded to his residence," according to a state police news release.

"When the troopers arrived, he came out shooting," Miller said, and troopers returned fire.

No troopers were hurt during the 4:06 a.m. exchange of gunfire, he said.

Becker was pronounced dead at the scene by Deputy Coroner Tania Zech, according to the coroner's office. Rulings on Becker's cause and manner of death are pending autopsy results, the coroner's office said.

A state police Major Case Team, based at the Carlisle barracks, is investigating, according to Miller.

Called 911: Becker called 911 and said he had killed someone and had also killed Satan, according to Mark Walters, York County spokesman.

When asked, Becker said he wasn't violent and wasn't considering suicide, Walters said.

However, he did admit to having a gun, according to Walters.

Woken by gunshots: Neighbor Bill Dix said he and his children were awakened by the sound of gunfire around 4 a.m., though he said he initially thought the noise was fireworks or firecrackers.

Dix said he went outside and realized something was wrong after seeing several police vehicles on Hollow Road.

"When they started marking (the scene) off, I knew something was wrong somewhere," Dix said.

As his neighbor for roughly two years, Dix said he saw Becker almost every day, often walking around town or to the nearby Rutter's store on West Pennsylvania Avenue.

Dix said Becker would often stop by his house and chat with him  a little before heading home.

Becker was "very quiet" and stayed to himself, but he was always friendly, Dix said.

"He was always a pretty nice guy," Dix said. "Nobody knew a whole lot about him. He kept his own little secrets — his own little world — and I can respect that."

Christina Gazaway said she and her husband also woke up to the sound of gunshots around 4 a.m., but they were unable to see what was going on at Becker's home.

Though she and her daughters never spoke to Becker, Gazaway said he seemed like a nice person when they exchanged hellos.

"I guess it's the same (feeling) that everybody else is having right now," Gazaway said of her family's reaction to Becker being fatally shot by state police. "We're surprised, and I feel for his family and for the police officers involved. I'm just glad no one else was hurt."

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.