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Reason for Pa. man's suicide near police station unknown

January 04, 2007|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - The reason why a Waynesboro man took his life Tuesday outside of the Washington Township Police Department remains a mystery, police said Wednesday.

"We may not ever know why he came here," Washington Township Police Chief Barry Keller said.

Christopher J. Harbaugh, 33, shot himself in the head with a handgun outside the department Tuesday evening.

Police said Harbaugh had no known connection to the department or Washington Township, no police record and was not related to any township or department employees.

Carroll Sturm, who saw Harbaugh shoot himself, said Harbaugh spoke but never said why he chose the police department for his final moments.

"He spoke calmly and mentioned having domestic issues, but I can't remember exactly what he said," Sturm said Wednesday night.

The incident happened quickly, according to authorities.

"It wasn't two minutes from when he first talked to me to when he shot himself, maybe not even a minute," Sturm said.

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Harbaugh approached Sturm outside the police department and began talking to him around 6:15 p.m. Sturm said he did not speak to Harbaugh, but attempted to pass by without incident.

"It was instinct. I saw he had a gun, so I walked on by him," Sturm said.

Despite his instinctive reaction to the gun in Harbaugh's hand, Sturm said he never felt threatened.

"He was calm and there was no anger in his voice," Sturm said.

As Harbaugh spoke to Sturm, a nearby officer noticed the gun in Harbaugh's hand, Keller said.

The officer attempted to talk to Harbaugh while taking cover behind a police cruiser, but as the officer spoke, Harbaugh put the gun to his head and shot himself.

For Sturm, what happened after Harbaugh shot himself is a blur.

"I must have put my books inside and came back outside where I was asked to follow police," he said. "I feel sad for those people (the victim's family)."

Keller said the investigation is nearly complete and police are waiting for a background check on the gun.

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