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Investigation: Pa. police shooting of N.Y. man was 'suicide by cop'

Man fatally shot in Franklin County had pointed BB gun at officers

July 02, 2012

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — After a thorough review, the actions of police in the June 23 shooting death of a New York man were ruled appropriate, and the man’s death was deemed to be “suicide by cop,” according to Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal.

Adam L. Schillinger, 27, of Saugerties, N.Y., was fatally shot after he pointed what was later determined to be a BB gun at Pennsylvania State Police troopers in the early morning hours at a St. Thomas Township, Pa., home, Fogal said in a news release Monday.

“I have determined that the response and actions taken by all troopers involved were absolutely and unequivocally justified under the circumstances,” he said. “As such, no further criminal investigation is requested or warranted in this matter.”

Franklin County Coroner Jeffrey R. Conner on Monday issued an updated news release about the incident at 3321 Bony Lane, listing the manner of death as “suicide by cop.”

At approximately 7:44 a.m. June 23, Franklin County 911 dispatchers began receiving calls about a suspicious person wandering from house to house in the area of Coble Road and Edenville-Cheesetown Road, wearing green camouflage and carrying a backpack, Fogal said. The area is northwest of Chambersburg.

The man, who was asking for help with his vehicle, threatened homeowners and displayed a handgun, prompting neighbors to notify one another to leave the area, Fogal said.

“Their vigilant actions quite possibly saved innocent lives from death or very serious harm that morning,” he said.

State police responded to the area and found a man that matched the description given by dispatchers sitting in a pickup truck owned by the residents of 3321 Bony Lane, who had left after hearing reports of the man.

Troopers opened the passenger-side door of the truck and ordered Schillinger to show his hands. Schillinger displayed a handgun and refused to place the weapon on the dashboard.

Police shot Schillinger with a stun gun in an attempt to disarm him, but were unsuccessful, Fogal said.

Schillinger then exited the vehicle and pointed his weapon at a trooper who was standing about 10 to 15 feet away and fired, he said. Troopers fired back, ultimately killing him, police said at the time.

The handgun, which resembled a Beretta-style pistol, fell from Schillinger’s hand as he was shot. It was later found to be a CO2-powered BB gun.

“Later on the same date, a BB fell from the inside of the uniform pants of the trooper who Schillinger pointed the handgun at and fired,” Fogal said. “The BB confirms that the suspect actually did fire the gun at the trooper.”

Following the shooting, police found a handwritten “last will (and) testament,” dated June 20 and signed by Schillinger, in a backpack inside the pickup truck, Fogal said.

Along with an unopened package of rope, unopened roll of duct tape and several hunting and pocketknives, a four-page document was also found inside the truck, “appearing to be a long suicide note,” Fogal said.

Schillinger wrote in the note that he decided to “run away with life” and didn’t “really understand happiness,” the district attorney said, also noting that he felt he had a “social phobia” and “absolutely no friends.”

Schillinger later wrote that he was “taking the easy way out, but I’m gonna go out with a bang. I’m not just gonna kill myself, I’m gonna go a lil’ crazy before I do it,” Fogal said, quoting from the note.

“Finally, he ends by telling several family members that he is sorry for ‘doing this,’” Fogal said.

A day later, police found Schillinger’s vehicle, a 2009 Ford Focus, on Edwards Drive, unlocked with the keys in the ignition. The Focus started and appeared to be operating properly when examined by troopers.

On the front driver’s seat in the vehicle was a note that read: “... I’m sorry, I just couldn’t take life anymore. I just don’t fit in. I feel like it’s a struggle for me from the second I wake up till the second I fall asleep. I don’t want to live like this anymore.”

“Special thanks are given to the vigilant neighbors who reported this suspect and alerted their neighbors,” Fogal said. “Given what we now know regarding Schillinger’s final thoughts and intent to go out ‘with a bang,’ lives may have very well been saved, and needless harm and suffering avoided.

“Certainly, no one delights in taking the life of another, but the actions of these troopers were utterly reasonable, appropriate and correct.”

Fogal also released photos of the suicide note, the knives and the BB gun.

— C.J. Lovelace

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