Lancaster County Coroner calls death of man in police-involved shooting a homicide

MANHEIM TOWNSHIP, Lancaster County — The man killed by a Manheim Township police officer Tuesday in front of the police station shot himself in the face before the officer fired the fatal shot, according to Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni.

After performing an autopsy on John Simson, Diamantoni ruled the death a homicide. Simson, 65, of East Petersburg, was killed by a single gunshot wound to the body.

The news was first reported by LancasterOnline. FOX43 confirmed it with Diamantoni’s office Friday morning.

Before he was killed by the Manheim Township police officer’s single shot, Simson shot himself in the face with a shotgun, Diamantoni said.

In a statement emailed to FOX43, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office explained Diamantoni’s homicide ruling:

Any time one individual takes another individual’s life, it is properly classified by the coroner as homicide. However, the coroner’s determination does not speak to whether the homicide was justified or not. Such determination will be made by District Attorney Stedman upon review of all circumstances, evidence and information.

While not complete, the investigation thus far clearly indicates Mr. Simson was not fully incapacitated by the self-inflicted wound, and he continued to pose a threat to officers and civilians in the area. Additionally, the self-inflicted shot was the second shot fired by Mr. Simson.

 

Investigators said Simson drove to the police station at approximately 3 p.m., armed with a shotgun. He fired the weapon at least twice — including one shot at himself — during a confrontation with Manheim Township police.

Simson allegedly ignored repeated verbal commands from the officer, who then shot Simson once in the body, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.

While he would not say where the officer’s shot hit Simson, Diamantoni confirmed that it was definitely the shot that killed him.

“Beyond a reasonable doubt, that wound was fatal,” he told LancasterOnline.

The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office will eventually decide whether the officer’s use of force was justified.

Manheim Township police had charged Simson with multiple felonies relating to the alleged sexual abuse of a 9-year-old girl. Police first learned of the allegations when a report was filed on March 30. Simson allegedly admitted to his involvement on April 5, and the charges against him were filed May 4.

Simson turned himself in at the police station later that day, when he was arraigned. He was freed after posting $50,000 bail.