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‘Harrowing’: Pennsylvania state police recount gunfight with ambush suspect that left trooper dead

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(HARRISBURG, Penn.) — In his nearly 40 years as a member of the Pennsylvania State Police, Lt. Col. George Bivens said he’s never witnessed a gunfight more intense than the one that erupted over the weekend with a suspect alleged to have ambushed and killed one trooper and critically wounded another.

“What I witnessed …. was one of the most intense, unbelievable gunfights I have ever witnessed,” Bivens said at a news conference on Sunday.

The suspect, 38-year-old Brandon Stine, was fatally shot by police in the gunbattle on Saturday in which Bivens said “hundreds of rounds” were fired.

State Police Commissioner Christopher L. Paris said Stine was armed with a high-powered .458 magnum rifle, which he said is normally used by large game hunters.

“This was as harrowing as it gets,” Paris said of the gunfight that ended with Stine’s death.

Bivens said the rifle Stine allegedly used “would defeat any body armor” the officers he confronted were wearing.

A motive for the rampage remains under investigation, and authorities declined to comment on whether state police had previous contact with Stine, who is from Thompsontown, Pennsylvania, in Juniata County.

Bivens described the initial attacks on the troopers as an “ambush” and said the suspect called 911 several times to give his location in an apparent effort to lure officers into a trap.

The violence unfolded about 11 a.m. Saturday when Stine drove his 2008 Chevrolet pickup truck into the parking lot of the state police Troop G barracks in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, got out of his vehicle and fired several shots at parked patrol cars before driving off. Surveillance cameras captured Stine firing his weapon in the parking lot and enabled police to obtain his license plate number and identify him as the registered owner and likely assailant, Paris said.

The state police immediately launched a massive search for the suspect, who was spotted at 12:45 p.m. Saturday in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania, about 13 miles northwest of Lewistown, by state police Lt. James Wagner, Paris said. Wagner was critically wounded in a confrontation with the suspect, Paris said.

He said several civilians came to the 45-year-old Wagner’s aid and used his radio to call for help.

Around 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Trooper Jacques F. Rougeau Jr., 29, a member of the state police force since 2020, was fatally shot in his patrol vehicle as he participated in the search for Stine.

Bivens alleged that Rougeau was “ambushed” by Stine as the trooper was driving in Walker Township.

He said Rougeau was fatally shot from a distance through the windshield of the patrol vehicle. He said Stine then drove into a residential area and was eventually spotted again by officers in the parking lot of a store and restaurant.

“There were people in the lot that were patronizing that business,” said Bivens, who was in a police helicopter overhead directing the pursuit.

Bivens said the troopers put themselves between the suspect and the civilians and used their patrol vehicle to force the suspect away from the businesses. He said several troopers were shot at by the suspect.

“It was such a fluid situation that our patrol car members were literally bailing out of cars while they were running,” Bivens said.

In an apparent attempt to escape, Stine drove across the yard and garden of a home and got stuck against a row of trees, Bivens said. He was fatally shot during a final gunbattle with police, Bivens said.

Paris added, “It’s a miracle that no members of the public were killed or injured as a result.”

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