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2 Pennsylvania troopers shot in sting return fire, killing suspect

Paul Peirce
| Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, 11:03 a.m.
Clarence A. Belsar III, 26, of Fairchance, was killed after shooting two state troopers on Friday night, Aug. 18, 2017.
Photo courtesy of PAMegansLaw.com
Clarence A. Belsar III, 26, of Fairchance, was killed after shooting two state troopers on Friday night, Aug. 18, 2017.
Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower speaks to media during a press conference detailing a shooting involving state troopers on Friday night in Fairchance, Fayette County, at the Pennsylvania State Police station in Uniontown on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower speaks to media during a press conference detailing a shooting involving state troopers on Friday night in Fairchance, Fayette County, at the Pennsylvania State Police station in Uniontown on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.
Lt. Steven Dowlin, station commader at the Uniontown state police station, listens to area commander Maj. William Teper Jr. as he details the trooper-involved shooting that occurred Friday night in Fairchance, Fayette County. Police held a press conference at the state police station in Uniontown on Saturday morning, Aug. 19, 2017.
Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review
Lt. Steven Dowlin, station commader at the Uniontown state police station, listens to area commander Maj. William Teper Jr. as he details the trooper-involved shooting that occurred Friday night in Fairchance, Fayette County. Police held a press conference at the state police station in Uniontown on Saturday morning, Aug. 19, 2017.

A state trooper was in critical condition Saturday following a fatal confrontation with a 26-year-old Fayette County man on Friday night.

Clarence A. Belsar III was shot and killed during an incident involving the troopers on West Church Street in Fairchance around 8:15 p.m.

Belsar was a suspect in a series of burglaries being investigated by the Uniontown and Waynesburg state police stations, said Capt. Joseph D. Ruggery, the station commander.

Ruggery said that the troopers set up a buy via Facebook for a PlayStation gaming console in Fairchance near the Shop 'n Save on West Church Street. When Belsar arrived, the troopers identified themselves as police and informed him he was under arrest.

Belsar attempted to flee, and during a struggle he refused commands to stop.

After he was restrained by the troopers, “our investigation shows that he pulled out a .38-caliber handgun from his waistband and fired one round,” Ruggery said.

The bullet glanced off one trooper's left hand, and struck the second trooper in the abdomen.

Both troopers, who officials declined to identify, returned fire.

State police said Belsar was shot multiple times. Police declined to disclose how many shots troopers fired or how many times Belsar was struck.

The trooper shot in the hand was treated and released from Uniontown Hospital. The second trooper was airlifted by medical helicopter to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., where he underwent emergency surgery Friday night. He was listed in critical condition, Ruggery said, late Saturday morning.

“However, his prognosis is good,” he added.

“Our worst fears were realized Friday,” Ruggery said. “Only by the grace of God both of these men are still with us today.”

Ruggery said that because both officers worked in the vice unit they were in plain clothes and are not required to wear bulletproof vests.

Bystanders praised

Both Ruggery and Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower credited bystanders for assisting the wounded troopers until paramedics arrived.

Ruggery noted that since the shooting occurred near a main street and busy grocery store there were several witnesses.

After Bower's formal determination on whether the shooting was justified, Ruggery said, the troopers will remain on desk duty, “once they recuperate,” for an in-house administrative review .

“Our prayers right now are with the troopers and their families,” Bower said.

“We do appreciate the outpouring of support from the community we've received for the troopers,” Ruggery said.

Suspect had rap sheet

Belsar is listed on the state's Megan's Law website, convicted in 2007 of child rape and in 2014 of child luring. The Megan's Law website lists him as a non-compliant Tier I sex offender.

Belsar had three active cases pending in local district courts on charges of harassment, receiving stolen property and retail theft.

Staff writer Patrick Varine contributed to this report. Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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