Troopers involved in Blair County shooting spree honored for bravery
Three state troopers from Blair County were honored this week for their bravery during the Dec. 21 shooting rampage in Geeseytown that left four people dead.
State police Commissioner Frank Noonan presented the department's highest award, the Medal of Honor, to Trooper Timothy A. Strohmeyer of Troop G in Hollidaysburg for his heroic efforts during the December shooting.
“This award is presented to members or enforcement officers distinguished by a gallant and intrepid action, which was above and beyond the call of duty,” Noonan said.
On the morning of Dec. 21, troopers were dispatched to reports of a man shooting people in the area of Juniata Valley Road, Frankstown Township.
Kimberly Scott, 58, of Duncansville, was gunned down as she decorated Juniata Valley Gospel Church for a children's Christmas party. In a seemingly random act of violence, Jeffrey Lee Michael of Hollidaysburg entered the church and killed Scott before he drove along Juniata Valley Road and fatally shot Lynn in his driveway and Rhodes at a stop sign.
Strohmeyer, Trooper David Nazaruk, and Corp. Kevin Campbell were first to arrive in the area, Noonan said. En route to the scene, Troopers Strohmeyer and Nazaruk passed the suspect traveling in the opposite direction on Juniata Valley Road.
As Michael passed the troopers, he fired shots into both cruisers. Nazaruk sustained injuries to his eyes and forehead from shrapnel and glass fragments.
Strohmeyer turned around his patrol car and pursued Michael with Nazaruk close behind. At the same time, Campbell was heading south on the road in their direction and was the next to encounter the suspect.
When Michael approached Campbell, he accelerated his truck and intentionally rammed Campbell's patrol car head-on. The impact disabled both vehicles and jammed the patrol car's driver's side door.
Within seconds, Strohmeyer arrived and rammed his cruiser into the rear of the suspect's truck, diverting his attention. After the impact, Michael immediately charged the driver's side of Strohmeyer's vehicle, firing as he approached.
Strohmeyer, who was wearing his issued body armor, was struck in the lower chest area and left wrist.
“Trooper Strohmeyer, even after being struck in the chest and hand, drew his service weapon and returned fire until he had stopped ... the suspect,” Noonan said.
Strohmeyer also received the Purple Heart and the Trooper of the Year award.
In addition, Nazaruk received the Purple Heart. He and Campbell both received a Commendation Medal.
“The exemplary actions of Trooper Strohmeyer, along with Corp. Campbell and Trooper Nazaruk, exhibited great personal courage while putting their own lives on the line in an attempt to stop a killer,” Noonan said. “The troopers, while injured, engaged the suspect and terminated any additional threat to the lives of other persons in the community.”
Thomas E. Coulter of Apollo, Westmoreland County, received the agency's Police Communications Officer of the Year Award during the same ceremony Monday at the State Police Academy in Hershey.
Coulter has been with the department since 1980. He is currently assigned to the midnight shift at the Kiski Valley station.
“PCO Coulter is a dedicated employee who routinely works without the benefit of a shift supervisor,” Noonan said. “He can be relied upon to make sound decisions that consistently aid in officer safety.”
Noonan added that Coulter's dedication to public service does not end when his shift ends at the station. Coulter has been a firefighter with the Apollo Hose Company No. 2 since 1972. He was honored as the Apollo Firefighter of the Year in 1995.