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Lancaster DA: Officer in police-involved shooting at Manheim Township May 8 was justified in using lethal force

Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman shows video footage of the police-involved shooting outside of the Manheim Township Police Station on May 8. Stedman determined that the officer was justified in using lethal force to nullify the threat. (Photo: Brett Hambright)

LANCASTER — The Manheim Township police officer who shot and killed John R. Simson outside the Manheim Township Police Station on May 8 was justified to use lethal force to neutralize the threat, Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman announced Wednesday.

Officer Calvin Steidler fired one shot in the incident, striking Simson in the torso from the left side, Stedman said. Simson fired two rounds from a shotgun — including one at himself — and was threatening another officer when Steidler fired the fatal shot.

Stedman announced his determination at a press conference at Lancaster County Courthouse. The announcement included surveillance video of the incident, which occurred shortly before 3 p.m. on May 8.

The investigation, led by Lancaster County Detectives, revealed the following elements Stedman used to make his ruling:

  • Simson immediately armed himself with the shotgun upon his arrival at the station. While walking from where he parked to the front door of the station, he pointed the weapon at Officer Ryan Snyder, who was leaving the area in his patrol vehicle.
  • Simson fired a shot, seemingly into the air without aiming, when he saw Snyder at the rear of the police station.
  • Simson shot himself in the face while standing outside the front door of the station. The shot injured Simson, but did not incapacitate him. He fell to the ground and was motionless for about 20 seconds, before eventually regaining control of the shotgun and pointing it in the direction of where he presumably anticipated Officer Snyder would appear — around a blind corner of the building.
  • Officer Seidler saw the potential danger to Snyder, and shouted commands for Simson to lower the weapon, which Simson ignored. Seidler, standing approximately 91 feet away, then fired the shot that struck Simson.
  • Simson was charged with the sexual abuse of a minor on May 4. Before the incident at the station, he had made phone calls to investigators claiming the allegations had negatively impacted his life.
  • Simson presented a grave and immediate risk of danger to police officers, police department support staff, and civilians in the area.

Simson was pronounced dead at the scene. No police officers, staff or civilians were injured in the incident.

Stedman said he considered the reports and evidence gathered in the investigation, which included witness and eyewitness interviews, surveillance video from multiple cameras, and interviews of all officers present.