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Homicide suspect shoots himself following standoff in Coaldale

A standoff with a homicide suspect in Coaldale Borough ended after the man reportedly shot himself, according to people at the scene.

Police locked down parts of Coaldale Borough for more than four hours Friday after the suspect barricaded himself in his home.

The man, identified as Richard Lee Sweet, 47, was wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of a woman at her home in East Allentown, which occurred around 9:45 a.m. Friday.

The victim was identified by Allentown Police as Joan Cressman, who was reportedly Sweet’s girlfriend.

Sweet reportedly barricaded himself in his home on Fisher Avenue in Coaldale at approximately 11 a.m.

Neighbors were told to stay inside their homes, and streets surrounding the home were closed throughout the lockdown.

Around 4 p.m., neighbors said they heard a single gunshot come from inside the house.

At the time, police had not entered the house, and were attempting to communicate with him with a loudspeaker.

Sweet was taken from the scene by ambulance. An update on his condition was not available.

The homicide victim was killed at her home in East Allentown. Neighbors there said they heard a single loud pop in the victim’s apartment and observed Sweet standing over the victim.

Panther Valley Junior-Senior High School and Intermediate school were on a brief lockdown during the incident. After students were dismissed, school administrators waited out the lockdown with some students who could not return to their homes.

A next-door neighbor who lives in an attached unit said police evacuated her from her home.

Elizabeth Brown heard police saying “call 911” over a loudspeaker, and assumed they needed help. When she called and told dispatchers her address, they had an officer take her to a nearby location.

Brown said that she was shocked to hear Sweet was a homicide suspect. She said he was a good neighbor in the roughly six months he lived next door.

“The man was nothing but nice to me,” she said.

Other neighbors sheltered in place for more than four hours in their homes near Fisher Avenue.

Grace Getz said she heard multiple police units pull up to the house. When she went outside to investigate, they told her to go inside, where she stayed through the lockdown.

“I thought, ‘there’s real trouble here. God, I hope no one gets hurt,’” she said.

Victor Svitilla was working in the yard at his home on Ridge Street when police officers arrived with guns drawn and ordered him inside. He said he only had brief, but cordial interactions with Sweet in the past.

Svitilla said it sounded like the gunshot came from inside the house based on the volume.

“They were trying to coerce him out, then you heard the gunshot. A minute later, they all lined up outside the house, and when they came out it was nonchalantly,” he said.

State and local police block off the 100 block of Fisher Avenue in Coaldale Friday in a standoff with a man wanted in connection with a homicide in Lehigh County. After four hours, the suspect shot himself. COPYRIGHT LARRY NEFF/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Officers set up during a standoff at a home in Coaldale.