Two of the three suspects involved with the theft of a car and a related stabbing and shooting incident in Tamaqua on Jan. 26 voluntarily turned themselves into police Thursday morning.
Those who have been charged in the case are Cory Whitley, 18, of Rose St., Tamaqua; Joshua Gaugler, 20, of Allen Dr., Northampton; and a 15-year-old Tamaqua male.
Tamaqua Corporal Henry Woods, who investigated the incident, called it "a joyride that escalated into something out of control very quickly."
The defendants are accused of stealing a car that was left idling in the area of the Wine and Spirits Store in the North Railroad Street minimall on Jan. 26 at 8:45 p.m.
The vehicle, a 1997 silver Nissan Altima, belonged to an employee of the store and had been cleared of snow by James Medvetz, the store manager, who then began clearing the snow off of his own vehicle.
The suspects allegedly got into the Nissan and drove off the lot, driving it around for a few blocks before ditching it near the garages at the intersection of Schuylkill Avenue and Laurel Street.
They then walked toward Rolling Mill Avenue to meet the juvenile, who had been left behind.
Medvetz, who called 9-1-1, originally gave chase on foot, then returned to the store and took his own car in an attempt to catch the thieves.
Medvetz confronted them in the area of Pine and West Union streets and was allegedly assaulted by the trio with brass knuckles, as well as receiving a stab wound on his hand.
When Gaugler rushed Medvetz, the latter pulled out a licensed hand gun, shooting Gaugler in the stomach. Medvetz then fled back to his car, returned to the store and related the incident to police.
Gaugler and Whitley were arraigned separately before Magisterial District Judge Stephen J. Bayer, of Tamaqua, on the charges.
Gaugler has been committed to Schuylkill County prison, Pottsville, in lieu of $50,000 cash bail, while Whitley is free after posting 10 percent of his $25,000 bail.
Charges against Gaugler include felony auto theft by unlawful taking, criminal conspiracy, robbery, receiving stolen property, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, aggravated and simple assault, reckless endangerment, driving without a valid license and driving the wrong way on a one-way street.
Whitley has been charged with felony auto theft by unlawful taking, criminal conspiracy, robbery, receiving stolen property, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, aggravated and simple assault, reckless endangerment, illegal use of a prohibited weapon, criminal mischief and driving with a suspended/revoked license.
The juvenile's charges are being referred to juvenile authorities.
Gaugler was represented by Attorney Gary Marchalk, Tamaqua, during the arraignment.
Marchalk asked that Gaugler's bail be set at $10,000, since Gaugler had no prior exposure to the adult court system (he was arraigned on a juvenile matter outside of Bayer's jurisdiction), didn't have "tons of money" and had ties to the community. Marchalk also noted that Gaugler has to undergo physical therapy and doctor's appointments due to his gun shot wound. Woods said the medical issues could be addressed at the prison.
Gaugler said he was new to the community and had only lived in Tamaqua three-four months, residing with a girlfriend on Orwigsburg Street. Marchalk said he has also stayed with friends in Bethlehem but has transportation issues.
Bayer felt Gaugler presented a flight risk as well as a problem to the community, given that the criminal complaint against him alleged Gaugler went after Medvetz again after the victim had been stabbed.
As for Whitley, Bayer said he had appeared before him on minor issues in the past and has a history of not always reporting to summary court hearings and owing money to the court. Whitley was accompanied by his sister at the arraignment, but had no legal representation.
"This is certainly not a victimless crime," said Bayer. "A certain amount of thought went into what you guys did."
A preliminary hearing was tentatively set for Feb. 23.
Woods said he felt that the incident is an isolated crime of opportunity.
"It is not a signal to the community that everything's out of control," he stated. "They saw a target of opportunity. They did not consider that Medvetz would go running after them."
Woods said the three suspects were caught on the store's video cameras.
"The video was absolutely critical," he mentioned. "We saw the three of them on the outside of the store for 30 seconds. We saw them look at the car, then drive through in the same car. It was an incredible lapse of judgment on their part."
The brass knuckles were recovered by police, but not the weapon that allegedly stabbed Medvetz.
"It could have been boxcutters or anything that would make a puncture wound," said Woods.
Woods said he consulted with District Attorney James Goodman regarding the case. Medvetz was licensed to carry the firearm and was in a defensive posture, backing away from Gaugler.
"There are no charges against the victim, because it is viewed as self-defense," commented Woods. "Any case like this, we want to confer with the DA to make sure we're on the same page. Anything this serious, we want to do it right."