Lehighton hospital staff attacked, suspect hijacks mail truck before he's captured
LARRY NEFF/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Police from various area departments responded to Gnaden Huetten Hospital last night after a man went on a rampage and attacked staff members before commandeering a mail truck.
A Nesquehoning man is lodged in Carbon County Prison after allegedly tossing a nauseous liquid on a table at a Jim Thorpe restaurant yesterday afternoon and then going on a violent rampage at the Gnaden Huetten Campus of Blue Mountain Health System in Lehighton last night, after which he reportedly attempted to steal a postal truck.
Travis T. Loch, 24, of 236 W. Mussmano St., was arraigned before District Judge Joseph Humanko of Weatherly this morning. He is facing a long list of charges, including felony counts.
Judge Humanko listed bail at $50,000 cash.
The charges against Loch were filed by the Lehighton Police Department this morning. Charges reportedly are still pending in the Jim Thorpe incident, which resulted in the restaurant being evacuated and fire department personnel as well as the Emergency Management Agency being dispatched to the scene.
The iniitial incident happened yesterday afternoon at the Subway Restaurant in Jim Thorpe.
Personnel guessed it was bleach that Loch brought into the restaurant, but took precautions in case it was something else and phoned the Carbon County Telecommunications Commission.
Jim Thorpe Police, the Jim Thorpe Fire Department, and the EMA were dispatched. Emergency personnel wore special breathing apparatus and safety apparel to enter the restaurant.
Jim Thorpe Police Chief Joseph Schatz said police got a call from the Subway restaurant about a suspicious male who left a suspicious substance in a Clorox bottle at the restaurant.
According to Schatz, the man entered the restaurant and placed a bottle of bleach on the table, then left. Schatz said his investigation determined the male entered the Subway with the bottle of Clorox bleach and a Christmas stocking. He then asked for a cup, sat down and poured what appeared to be bleach into the cup. A few minutes later he left, leaving the bleach and stocking behind.
Employees evacuated the restaurant and called 9-1-1, Schatz said.
Schatz determined the substance to be bleach.
The second incident began at 9:07 p.m. when police were called to the Lehighton hospital to aid staff members during the assault.
Police from numerous communities responded to the scene.
Lehighton Police Sergeant Joseph Lawrence said Loch allegedly was using a fire extinguisher as a weapon in the hospital.
During the incident, Loch left the building and attempted to enter and steal a Lehighton police cruiser.
When that failed the individual spotted a mail truck being operated north on 12th Street. Lawrence said Klotz's Service Station on Mahoning Street services postal trucks and a mechanic was working on one and took it for a test drive.
Lock reportedly managed to stop the truck and smashed the driver's side window out with the fire extinguisher, assaulting the driver with the extinguisher, and then pulling the pin, spraying the driver with the extinguishing powder.
Lawrence said Lock was unable to flee in the vehicle because of a faulty transmission. Several police cruisers pulled in front and behind the truck, blocking it in. The man was wrestled to the ground by police and taken into custody.
He was transported back to the hospital on a gurney.
None of the officers were injured in the incident.
Lehighton police have charged Loch with four counts of aggravated assault on hospital personnel (felonies), one count of criminal attempt of robbery of a motor vehicle (felony), one count criminal attempt of theft by unlawful taking (felony), three counts of terroristic threats, five counts of recklessly endangering, four counts of resisting arrest, and two counts of criminal mischief.
TIMES NEWS photographer Bob Ford and reporter Den McLaughlin contributed to this story.