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Hero cop 'ran toward the danger,' kills gunman who opened fire at municipal building; four wounded

A gunman allegedly scheduled for a domestic violence hearing next week opened fire at a western Pennsylvania magistrate's office Thursday afternoon, police told KDKA-TV. Four officers went after the suspect, and one fatally shot him. (Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot)

A gunman allegedly scheduled for a domestic violence hearing next week opened fire at a western Pennsylvania magistrate's office Thursday afternoon, police told KDKA-TV.

The man entered the lobby of the Masontown Municipal Building around 2 p.m., police told the station, and added that the shooting took place inside the office of Magisterial District Judge Daniel Shimshock.

But officers from Masontown and German Township entered the lobby and engaged the shooter, KDKA said, adding that the unnamed German Township officer fatally wounded the suspect.

'Ran toward the danger'

“The German Township police officer ran toward the danger, not away," District Attorney Richard Bower said in a separate story from the station. "He protected over 30 to 40 people from injury or death."

Bower added to KDKA that "there were four heroes: [Sgt. R. Scott Miller, German Township Police Chief Dave Hromada, Officer Thomas Obarto], and the officer who engaged the actor and killed him."

Dozens were in the building when the gunman began shooting, the station said, adding that four people were wounded, taken to a hospital, and later released. Among the wounded was Officer Miller, who was shot in the hand and expected to be OK, the station added.

“I want to make it clear," Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Steve Dowlin told KDKA, "without the rapid response of these brave officers to the shooting, more individuals may have been shot."

Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot

Hromada responded to the incident as it was unfolding, the station said.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of mixed emotions when you’re involved in something that like that," the German Township chief told KDKA. "Basically, I’m just glad that the officers are all OK. It’s unfortunate that someone lost their life, but I’m proud of my officer, and I think everyone did what they’re trained to do."

'He was still bleeding so profusely'

Witness Xuan Sayles told the station he was in the parking lot when he heard gunshots — and then turned around "and saw a guy with a gun, and [a] lady was five to eight feet away from the shooter, and his gun jammed up."

Sayles added to KDKA that the gunman "was trying to get it to shoot again, and it wouldn’t shoot. So when he got it to shoot again, I took cover beside the magistrate. I saw the cop; he was taking cover behind the vehicle, and he said, ‘Stay back,’ but he was shot. I ran over to him, took my shirt off — my tank top first — and wrapped it around his hand. But he was still bleeding so profusely that I took my other shirt off and wrapped it around his hand and then I took my belt off and wrapped it around his wrist.”

Image source: KDKA-TV video screenshot

Sayles said the gunman shot out the front door windows and continued firing, adding to the station he "heard at least 10 shots" once the suspect entered the building.

‘Dear God, don’t let this be my day'

One witness told KDKA that those inside tried taking cover.

“I’m watching the door, I’m crouched down against the wall, there are people to my left, people still flowing into the courtroom, and the gentleman comes in, sweeps the room with the gun, and it ends up being on me," the witness recalled to the station. "I’m staring at this gun, staring at him, and praying, ‘Dear God, don’t let this be my day.' I’ve never looked down the barrel of a gun.”

'She wanted a divorce'

Among the wounded was a 39-year-old woman whom sources believe is the suspect's wife, KDKA reported in a follow-up piece.

Sources identified the shooter as Patrick Dowdell, 61, and told the station he was targeting his wife, Crystal, not the magistrate or his staff.

Dowdell had a preliminary hearing scheduled for Wednesday on domestic charges of strangulation, aggravated assault, and terroristic threats stemming from an alleged incident in late August, KDKA reported, citing court dockets.

Sources added to the station that Dowdell's wife had filed a protection from abuse order against him.

“From what I heard from my neighbor is that she wanted a divorce, and that’s when he pulled a belt out from around his waist and strangled her around the neck,” neighbor Rebecca Clark told KDKA.

Neighbor Susan Davis added to the station that Dowdell's wife "got him to calm down and take a bath, and that’s when she took off and called the cops on him.”

Neighbors told KDKA the shooting is a shock since they never heard the couple fight and never saw police at their home.

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