Investigators are looking into whether mental illness played a role in the death of an off-duty eastern Pennsylvania deputy sheriff after he took another off-duty officer hostage at gunpoint before fatally shooting himself, police said Saturday.
State Police Cpl. Shawn Noonan told the Associated Press that investigators are trying to figure out what motivated Carbon County Deputy Sheriff David Midas and said they were interviewing co-workers and family members to see whether there were signs of mental illness.
"They're still trying to figure out the details," Noonan said.
Midas of Weatherly was pronounced dead Friday night at the Lehighton Campus of Blue Mountain Health System, according to police.
The shooting occurred from a bizarre incident that apparently started in Lansford and culminated on Broadway in Jim Thorpe.
Police said Midas was involved in a scuffle with another police officer, Chris Ondrus.
The investigation into the details is continuing.
Police said it doesn’t appear that there are suspicious circumstances surrounding his death at this time.
He was well-known and liked in the community.
Lansford Mayor Ron Hood said Midas had been hired as a part-time police officer in 2002. .
“He was easygoing, very outgoing. He got along with everybody. He was just a great guy -- everybody loved him.
“I remember flipping through channels and come up on a polka show, and there he was, dancing with all these little old ladies,” Hood said. “And on the radio, there would be all these polkas going out to ‘Officer Dave in Weatherly’.”
Hood had known Midas since they were kids, playing on the same Little League team. Midas was also president of American Fire Co. No. 1 in Lansford, to which Hood also belongs.
While Hood would not say whether he knew more details of what happened on Friday night, he said that Midas and Ondrus were close.
“They’re best friends,” he said.
No one knew Midas’ love of polkas more than the host of the Sunday morning polka show on local radio station WMGH.
Tomorrow morning will be tough for “Polka Joe” Manjack.
“He was always one of the first to email (requests) every Sunday,” he said.
“I’m in shock. I saw him in July at the Coal Miners festival. He was always so friendly and outgoing.”
The incident happened at about 7:40 p.m. and resulted in the response of police officers throughout Carbon County.
A brief press gathering was held at the scene by Jim Thorpe Chief of Police Joseph Schatz, Jim Thorpe Police Detective Lee Marzen, and Lansford Police Detective Jack Soberick.
Soberick confirmed that the incident started in Lansford and involved two Lansford police officers.
He disputed that any theft of weapons occurred at the Lansford Police station, as was originally reported by media. However, a police cruiser was taken during the incident and driven to Jim Thorpe.
According to reports, the incident began with Midas and Ondrus at a residence in Lansford. Somehow the incident continued to Jim Thorpe where the two officers got into a physical confrontation.
It was not clear what the dispute was about, but one man who wouldn't identify himself said he was at an eatery in Jim Thorpe and heard a single gun shot.
He said within minutes numerous police cruisers came upon the scene.
Police officers responded from Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Lansford, Mahoning Township, Nesquehoning, Weatherly, and the Lehighton state police barracks.
The incident happened between Dugan's Store and the Dimmick Memorial Library.
When the incident occurred, a Jim Thorpe police officer who was first at the scene radioed that there was a suicidal incident occurring.
He requested immediate assistance.
Within minutes the situation came to a halt.
A call was made for a medical helicopter, but Midas was instead transported by ambulance to the Lehighton hospital where he was pronounced dead.
A member of Lansford Borough Council was at the scene in Jim Thorpe.
Midas, although full-time in the sheriff's department, worked as a part-time police officer in several communities, including Lansford and Summit Hill.
He had indicated to the media his intentions of running for the office of Carbon County Sheriff next election in 2015.
Reporter Chris Parker contributed to this report.