Witness recalls Route 209 shooting
Tuesday’s officer-involved shooting took place along Route 209 just outside of Wentz’s Automotive, ending a chase which covered nearly 20 miles and reached speeds of 90 mph.
Twenty-seven-year-old Danny Washington of Florida died after he was shot during a struggle with a police officer, according to state police. Four other men who were in the vehicle have been arrested.
Wentz’s owner Gary Wentz, his son Chris and other employees were still at work when they saw multiple police cars following a white minivan, traveling at a slow speed with all four tires deflated. One of the police cars blocked the van in the left lane of Route 209 North, right in front of the business.
Gary Wentz recalled on Wednesday that the incident unfolded in seconds, and being unsure if the suspects would cooperate, run or even begin shooting. It was around dusk.
“When he stopped I just saw the door unlatched. I thought, these guys are gonna run,” Wentz said.
About 10 officers got out of their cruisers with guns drawn, surrounding the van and ordering the men inside to get out.
The people inside the van refused the officers’ commands to get out of the vehicle.
“They said ‘get out of the van’ — probably five times they said it. They never moved,” he said.
Wentz said he saw one of the suspects unlatch his door but remain inside. Eventually an officer went to the door and a struggle ensued. Both men fell onto the pavement and the gun discharged, hitting Washington in the torso.
“I think they fell over the guardrail and that’s when the gun was discharged,” Wentz said. “I don’t know if he rushed him, it happened so fast.”
Wentz said he couldn’t identify which department the officer was from. Other officers quickly separated the men.
Washington was placed on a gurney and given first aid until an ambulance arrived less than 10 minutes later.
Wentz said Washington was curled in a ball. He saw he was losing a lot of blood, and could be heard saying he did not want to die.
“There’s no way with the amount of blood that’s on the highway — without having intravenous, (that) was he gonna make it,” Wentz said. “It was bad.”
The ambulance left and the other men were put in police cruisers. State police arrived, closed the road, and roped off the crime scene.
Wentz said there was steam coming out of the van’s hood from the overworked engine. He said the officers could not touch the vehicle for about two hours until they returned with a search warrant.
Wentz said as soon as the incident began, he was concerned that the suspects could be armed. He said the events that led to the shooting happened so quickly that he didn’t think the officer intended to shoot Washington.
“I think whatever occurred there, it was not meant to be, but with the scuffle and the falling down, that’s what happened,” Wentz said.