State trooper in shootout: ‘Don’t let me die’
In this undated photo released by the Pennsylvania State Police, Cpl. Seth J. Kelly, is shown. Authorities have identified a Kelly as the Pennsylvania State Police trooper who was shot several times Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, during a traffic stop and remains hospitalized in critical condition. (Pennsylvania State Police via AP Photo)
(AP) A traffic stop for a man suspected of driving after smoking marijuana quickly escalated to ashootout where a state trooper feared for his life and acted frantically to save the life of the trooper backing him up, a trooper testified in court Tuesday.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Ryan Seiple said he escaped from the shootout with scrapes and bruises and a ringing in his left ear that still troubles him.
Corporal Seth Kelly was shot in the neck/shoulder area and leg by Daniel Clary during the stop on Nov. 7, police have said.
Seiple said Kelly fell down an embankment as Clary drove away on Route 33 southbound near the Stockertown interchange in Plainfield Township.
“What I saw was as if somebody had taken a bucket of blood and thrown it in an area leading up to and around Seth,” he said.
Kelly had applied a tourniquet to his leg, a move police say likely saved his life. He was in extremely critical condition after the shooting, but is now ”up on his feet” a state police lieutenant said Tuesday outside of court.
Kelly, of Upper Nazareth Township, remains hospitalized and faces a long recovery, law enforcement officials have said.
Seiple said he tried to keep the tourniquet in place as emergency responders and police arrived.
“At this point I was covered in blood. My hands were soaked,” he said. He said another trooper cut off Kelly’s pants while Seiple applied a second tourniquet, which helped stop the bleeding. In the meantime, Kelly lost consciousness.
“I was very concerned,” Seiple said. “I was tired. My hands were wet. I wasn’t able to lock in the tourniquet on Seth’s leg at the time.”
He said Bushkill Township Police Chief Michael McLouth was able to lock the tourniquet in place. Emergency workers needed to get a backboard down the embankment to lift Kelly up to a waiting ambulance. Seiple estimated Kelly is 6 feet 5 inches tall and about 200 pounds.
District Judge Douglas Schlegel ordered Clary on Tuesday to stand trial forattempted homicide and related charges.
Seiple testified he clocked Clary driving 87 mph on the highway around 10:12 a.m. Nov. 7. Seiple said Clary tailgated a motorist and failed to change lanes and yield to a trooper who had stopped on the right shoulder while Seiple pursued him.
Seiple said pulled Clary over, gave him a ticket and pulled partially back onto the highway when Clary waved him back. So Seiple backed up , parked and approached Clary again, he said.
He said he explained the citation twice and answered some questions during the initial stop, but Clary had more questions about paying it. He even asked whether he could pay Seiple on the spot, the trooper testified.
Seiple said he noticed a bottle of “Blunt Effects” air freshener in Clary’s car during the initial traffic stop. Seiple said Clary was evasive when asked about the air freshener during the follow-up questioning period. When Seiple asked him whether he smoked, Clary allegedly told him that was a personal question.
That’s when Seiple suspected Clary was high on marijuana. He said a toxicology test administered at 12:14 p.m., about two hours after the traffic stop, confirmed there were cannaboids in Clary’s system.
Seiple said he saw a green tint and raised taste buds on Clary’s tongue, both indicators of having smoked marijuana. He said he called in Kelly for backup and then administered three field tests for sobriety, all of which Clary failed.
Seiple said Clary complied with an order to put his hands behind his back but when Seiple took his arms to cuff them “he immediately resisted by turning his body and pulling away.”
Seiple said Kelly pursued Clary along the right shoulder of the road toward a guard rail when Seiple saw Clary reach for Kelly’s gun. Seiple shot Clary in the torso with his Taser, but either it didn’t break his skin or didn’t function effectively, he said.
Seiple said Clary came after him and fell into the right travel lane of Route 33. He said Kelly successfully used his Taser on Clary and pulled Clary off the road. All the while the troopers ordered Clary to stop resisting, Seiple said.
At that point, Seiple said he saw a gun on the ground. He would later learn it was Kelly’s second gun he kept near his boot. He said he pulled out the magazine and tossed the gun aside.
Then Seiple said he went back to help Kelly try to corral Clary. That’s when Clary allegedly grabbed for Seiple’s holster and gun.
“It went through in my head at that point that if I didn’t obtain my firearm, Mr. Clary was going to disengage it from the holster and kill me with it,” Seiple said.
Seiple said he punched Clary in the face but Clary kept fighting. Seiple said he still can’t believe Clary managed to stand up despite his efforts and the efforts of the much larger Trooper Kelly.
Seiple said when Clary broke free of them, Seiple pointed his gun at Clary. Clary was about eight feet from both troopers when he reached into the driver’s side of his car, grabbed his own gun and fired off two shots, Seiple said.
Seiple said he fired back, but the magazine was disengaged when Clary had grabbed for the gun, so he said he backpedaled and sought cover to push the magazine back into his gun. He said he fell backwards as Clary and Kelly continued firing.
Wounded trooper getting healthier’
“I remember three things as I was falling backward and getting back up,” Kelly testified. “The first thought that crossed my mind was, ‘Please don’t let me get shot in the back of the spine.’ The second was, ‘Don’t let me get shot in the head.’ The third was, ‘Don’t let me die.’”
Seiple said he regained his composure and started firing at Clary, who was now inside his car. Seiple said he emptied his 10-round magazine through the rear windshield as Clary drove away.
Clary was shot in the back of the neck during the exchange of gunfire, police said. He sought medical help at Easton Hospital in Wilson Borough about 20 minutes after he fled.
He has since been moved out of the hospital and into Northampton County Prison. Clary, 22, lives in Monroe County but has lived in the Easton area.
Defense attorney Matthew Goodrich questioned the reliability of Clary’s drug test, but Seiple said Clary admitted that he had smoked marijuana.
Seiple said a camera on his cruiser recorded the incident as well as a body microphone he wore.
Rudy Miller may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @RudyMillerLV.