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Lancaster DA Stedman: State Police trooper was justified in firing at fleeing suspect during pursuit

LANCASTER — The actions of a Pennsylvania State trooper who shot at an armed suspect who was fleeing in a stolen vehicle in March were justified, according to Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman.

Stedman’s office announced his determination Thursday.

William R. Long, 43, was not wounded by the shots fired by Trooper James Spencer in the March 8 incident in East Cocalico Township, Stedman said. Long instead continued to flee until he eventually crashed his vehicle into a utility pole on Stevens Road.

Long, who was a suspect in several burglaries and felony thefts in northern Lancaster County, had made previous references to being armed, according to Stedman. He allegedly fled from police who were attempted to pull over his vehicle on Oak Street in Denver Borough, leading them on a pursuit that lasted over an hour and covered several miles, stretching across multiple townships and counties.

Long led police through Lebanon and Berks counties before eventually returning to Lancaster County. His vehicle, a Toyota SUV that had been reported stolen, struck a State Police vehicle during the pursuit, Stedman said. Long also displayed what appeared to be a firearm, held it to his head, and refused to drop the gun as Trooper Spencer approached his vehicle.

Stedman determined that Long drove his vehicle directly at Spencer, who fired seven shots, some of which struck the driver’s side of the stolen vehicle as Long continued to flee in it. He again eluded capture until he eventually crashed on Stevens Road.

According to Stedman, there were three primary factors in his determination that Spencer was justified in firing at Long’s vehicle:

  • Long’s display of what appeared to be a firearm as police attempted to arrest him. He told police, after being arrested, that he did not want to return to prison and would have pointed the firearm — which was later determined to be a BB gun that resembled a real pistol — at police in an attempt to draw their fire. Long said he was familiar with the term “suicide by cop.”
  • Long drove in the direction of the trooper, who fired as Long again fled capture by police
  • Long struck a State Police vehicle during the lengthy pursuit, reaching speeds of above 100 mph

Long was charged with three felony counts of flight to avoid apprehension and fleeing police, and five misdemeanors for possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of an instrument of crime, and three counts of reckless endangerment.

Long is also charged, separately, with numerous burglary and theft-related crimes in Lancaster County. Northern Lancaster County Regional, West Earl, Ephrata, and Pennsylvania State Police filed counts of: burglary (four counts), felony theft (four), misdemeanor theft (three), attempted theft (one), theft from a vehicle (one), retail theft (five), and criminal mischief (one).