Lancaster man charged with fatally shooting victim after argument in October 2017

LANCASTER — Lancaster police have announced the arrest of a suspect in the October 2017 fatal shooting of a 31-year-old Lancaster man.

Wilberto Melendez, 41, of the 700 block of Rockland Street, Lancaster, was charged with homicide and related offenses in the death of William Earl Cooper, Jr., who was found lying on the sidewalk with multiple gunshot wounds by police responding to the report of a shooting on the 300 block of South Marshall Street at 3:18 a.m. on Oct. 27, 2017.

Cooper died of his wounds at approximately 8 a.m. at Lancaster General Hospital, according to police. After an autopsy, the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office determined the victim died of multiple gunshot wounds and that the case was a homicide.

An investigation led by Lancaster police detectives determined the homicide was the result of an argument between Melendez and two other males, one of whom was Cooper. Witnesses reported seeing a Cadillac SRX stopped in the street near the crime scene and saw a male go to the vehicle, retrieve an item, and open fire on the two other males. The suspect, later identified as Melendez, then returned to the vehicle, which drove from the scene.

The second male was not injured in the shooting, police say.

Police reviewed hours of surveillance footage, interviewed witnesses, and eventually worked with agents from  Pennsylvania State Probation and Parole in an attempt to locate Melendez, who was wanted for an unrelated parole violation. Detectives also learned that Melendez made attempts to prevent a witness from cooperating with the investigation.   The witness reported that Melendez contacted them on numerous occasions after the homicide and told them to lie about what they saw.

Wednesday night, Melendez was identified during a traffic stop in York County by State Police. He was taken into custody and is being held in York County Prison.

An arrest warrant on the homicide charge was issued Thursday. In addition to homicide, Melendez is charged with one count of intimidation of witnesses or victims, one count of firearms not to be carried without a license, and one count of persons not to possess a firearm.

Melendez has been arraigned on the new charges and is being held pending a preliminary hearing.

The investigation is ongoing, police say.

Anyone with information related to this incident is urged to call Lancaster City Police at (717) 735-3300 or Lancaster City-County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-322-1913. You can also click the Submit a Tip button on our website, www.lancasterpolice.com, or Text a Tip to Crime Stoppers by texting LANCS plus your message to 847411. Tipsters may remain anonymous and do not have to give their names.