The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office has completed its review of a May 8 incident at the Manheim Township Police Department.
John R. Simson, a 65-year-old East Petersburg man, was killed when a Manheim Township police officer fired a shot in response to Simson threatening another officer with a shotgun and firing two shots from the shotgun at different locations on the department grounds.
Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman has ruled that Officer Calvin Steidler was justified in his use of deadly force.
Our office has reviewed the findings, and all requested evidence/information, with a representative of the Simson family and their attorney.
The investigation, led by Lancaster County Detectives, revealed the following key elements considered by DA Stedman in making his determination:
- Simson immediately armed himself with a shotgun when he arrived at the station. Simson walked the distance from his parked vehicle to the front door of the police station armed with this shotgun and pointed it at Officer Ryan Snyder while walking to the door.
- Simson first fired a shot, seemingly into the air without aiming, upon seeing Officer Snyder at the rear of the police station;
- Simson, at the front door of the station, shot himself in the face. However, he was not completely incapacitated and, in fact, regained control of the shotgun and held the shotgun and pointed it in the direction of where he presumably anticipated Officer Snyder would appear around the corner. Officer Steidler, who could see the danger unfolding and shouted commands to Simson - which were ignored - then fired the shot that incapacitated Simson;
- Simson was charged May 4 with sexual abuse of a child (just days before he went to the police station with the shotgun). He had made phone calls to investigators involved in the case, claiming the investigation negatively impacted his life;
- Overall, Simson presented an immediate grave risk of danger to: police officers, police department support staff, and civilians in the area.
No police officers, staff or civilians were wounded or injured.
DA Stedman considered all reports and evidence collected in the investigation, to include: witness and eyewitness interviews; surveillance-video footage from multiple cameras (which captured the incident almost in its entirety); and interviews of all officers present, including the two officers directly involved – Steidler and Snyder.
Officer Steidler fired the shot from about 30 yards, while taking some cover from signage at the front of the police station. Video evidence showed Simson held the shotgun pointed toward where Officer Snyder was about to come around the corner and was walking along the building from the rear.
Here is a narrative of the incident based on all the above-stated information and evidence:
Simson drove a pickup truck to the police department and parked in a lot used by emergency medical service personnel, located adjacent to the police station.
He got out of the truck, was armed with a shotgun, which he carried with him during the entire incident.
At the rear of the police station, Officer Snyder had walked out of the building and entered his police vehicle.
At that time, Simson fired a shot (without aim). Simson then walked a short distance, leveled the shotgun at Officer Snyder appearing as though he was going to shoot at him, prompting Officer Snyder to reverse in his vehicle to a location of the rear lot further away from Simson, to avoid being shot.
A casing was found where Simson fired the first shot. Also, at least one witness saw Simson fire the shot.
Officer Snyder radioed that a man with a gun had shot at him.
Simson continued to walk, to the front of the police station, ultimately stopping at the front entrance porch area. The front doors of the station were unlocked and open to the public.
Video evidence shows a female civilian staffer was walking toward those same doors to leave her shift for the day shortly after Simson fired the second shot. That shot caused Simson to fall, and he was motionless for about 20 seconds before sitting up twice, the second time grabbing the shotgun. He then held the shotgun and pointed it in the direction of where Officer Snyder was now walking, along the edge of the building, near Simson’s location.
Video evidence, from multiple angles, clearly shows Simson regained possession of the shotgun and held it in firing position.
Officer Steidler, who had arrived at the front of the police station, had taken position and had his service pistol aimed at Simson. Commands were made for Simson to drop the weapon (witnesses stated they heard the commands); Simson did not comply. Officer Steidler then fired. Simson was seated on the porch, facing towards the direction of Officer Snyder along the wall, so the shot entered near Simson’s shoulder blade, killing him.
Officers Steidler and Snyder, and two detectives who were inside and came outside upon hearing the emergency dispatch, converged on Simson and retrieved the weapon from Simson’s lap.
A Lancaster County deputy coroner pronounced Simson dead at the scene.
MEDIA CONTACT: Brett A. Hambright, 717-295-2041; email@example.com; Twitter: @BrettHambright