Man found dead in Delmont after police tried to search house
A Delmont man died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Saturday as police were attempting to search his home in connection with a sexual assault investigation, said Police Chief T.J. Klobucar.
Investigators intended to look for weapons that 56-year-old Richard Franco was to have used during an alleged rape there on Friday, according to a search warrant obtained by the Tribune-Review.
But when they knocked on Franco’s West Pine Street door at 5:10 p.m. and came inside, they heard “multiple gunshots” and backed off.
The state police Special Emergency Response Team spent several hours into darkness Saturday deploying armored vehicles and repeatedly attempting to communicate with the man. Officers armed with large guns swarmed the residential area while firefighters shut down heavily-traveled Route 66.
Police evacuated residents from several nearby homes, Klobucar said.
On Sunday, the only evidence of the previous night’s situation were tread marks in the grass and a storm door laying in the backyard that appeared to have been ripped off a basement entrance.
Neighbors said Sunday it’s normally a quiet street outside of the constant flow of traffic just feet away on Route 66.
Joy Beehner felt pretty safe — she had a police officer stationed in a second-floor window at her house.
“The police, there were just a whole lot of them,” she said.
Franco eventually was found dead inside of a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Westmoreland County coroner. He was charged Saturday with rape, terroristic threats and related offenses. Those charges have since been dismissed.
Investigators were able to search the home for items related to the warrant, Klobucar said. Police are continuing to investigate.
“We ended up last night getting the things that we needed,” he said.
Police intended to look for DNA and hair belonging to Franco and the female accuser, in addition to bedding, furniture, cushions, firearms and clothing worn by the woman at the time of the alleged assault, according to the search warrant.
Delmont police and Westmoreland County detectives said the woman reported early Saturday that Franco forced her to have sex with him at gunpoint in his home Friday, according to the warrant affidavit. The accuser told police Franco pointed a handgun at her and she repeatedly asked him to stop the assault.
No emergency responders were hurt.
Authorities were assisted by several neighboring departments, including officers from Murrysville, and the county sheriff’s department.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .