Suspect in Youngwood standoff found dead in home
David J. Havranek, certain that some unknown person was after him, fired a handgun at random Tuesday morning from his brother's front porch in Youngwood toward a busy Route 119, striking multiple vehicles and houses and sending nearly an entire town into a snowy, seven-hour lockdown.
When it was over, Havranek, 46, was dead, likely by his own hand in the earliest moments of the standoff, said Trooper Steve Limani, a police spokesman.
"We were able to get video cameras inside the house, and upon examination of those cameras, it would appear this person was deceased in the house," Limani said. "From the moment we got here, we never made contact with him. ... We believe, most likely, that he took his own life shortly after the outburst of gunfire."
Westmoreland County Coroner Kenneth A. Bacha said Havranek was discovered with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He said a ruling on the cause and manner of the death was pending further investigation and results of an autopsy to be performed Wednesday by Dr. Cyril H. Wecht and Pathology Associates.
According to court documents prepared for charging Havranek if he were arrested, Bruce Havranek, David's brother, lived with him and another brother, Jim, at the South Fourth Street home. Bruce Havranek said he was awakened by gunfire about 8:15 a.m. and told Trooper Joseph Lauricia that "he immediately knew that it had to be (David Havranek)."
"(Bruce) described that the defendant was firing randomly and saying, 'They are after me and I am going to get them,'" Lauricia wrote in court documents filed before Youngwood District Judge Tony Bompiani.
Bruce and Jim Havranek subsequently fled the residence, police said.
Although no injuries were reported, Lauricia wrote in court documents that snowplow operator David Henry was clearing the parking area at nearby Bompiani Chiropractic Clinic and his 2005 Chevrolet pickup was hit by "at least 12 rounds" fired by David Havranek.
Henry told police that he saw David Havranek then retrieve a shotgun and shoot in his direction.
The shooting sent the community into a lockdown as officers surrounded the Havranek home, where David Havranek retreated after the shooting and wasn't seen or heard from again for hours as police tried to hail him over a bullhorn and call him on a cellphone.
Route 119 was shut down until about 3:45 p.m., businesses were closed and school buses were diverted around the area. Classes at Hempfield Area schools were not affected, though parents from Youngwood had the option of picking up their children from school.
"I heard a lot of gunfire, and then I was just trying to get hold of my kids because this was just when they were supposed to be getting on the bus," said neighbor Toni Johnson, 37. "I'd thought it was gunshots, but I wasn't sure. Then I looked out the window and saw police with guns out — big guns — that's when I started calling."
Anna Vukovich, who lives nearby, told reporters that she heard two separate bursts of gunshots before Havranek barricaded himself inside.
"I heard one gunshot and then several more after that. There was a lull. ... Then I started counting, and I heard six more after that," Vukovich said.
Clarence Givens had let his dog, Larry, outside at about 8 a.m. when he noticed the dog back at his door "going crazy." When he opened the door, he heard gunfire.
"Sometimes you can hear gunshots from the Youngwood Sportsman's Club, and that drives him crazy, but this just sounded like it was extremely close," said Givens, 59. "It just kept going and going. ... I let (Larry) in and told my wife, 'We're not going out for a while.' "
Troopers advised residents near the scene to take shelter in their basements.
William Goughnour, 44, was driving down Route 66 when he received an alert on his phone about a shooting and standoff blocks from his home. He headed straight home but had to go in a back way because police roadblocks had traffic backed up.
"I started getting texts from everyone who knew I lived in Youngwood, asking what was going on," Goughnour said. He has been trying to sell the house and had a showing scheduled for noon — which he had to cancel.
Across Route 119 at the BFS store, employees watched and waited. They were finally able to reopen for business before 4 p.m.
"A customer came in, reported that he heard what sounded like gunshots," said employee Chris Showalter.
The employees offered coffee to state troopers who had Hillis Street blocked off for hours. A Pepsi delivery man making his rounds at the store said he heard and saw the shots, Showalter said.
"Other than that, it's been a waiting game," he said.
Limani said police had to be cautious, going through the steps of trying to reach Havranek and either coax him or drive him outside to surrender before they went into the house with cameras or armed officers. For hours they appealed to him to surrender, for his brothers' sake, for his dog's sake, or to curb the property damage caused by shooting flash-bangs and gas canisters into the house.
Police didn't know what, if anything, led Havranek to start shooting.
"We're lucky no one was hurt; we're saddened that this was the conclusion to the incident," Limani said. "The worst that we could do is rush into that house, and if he's still there, alive, force his hand."
Joe Napsha, Paul Peirce, Matthew Santoni and Renatta Signorini are Tribune-Review staff writers.