A state police trooper shot and killed a 26-year-old man who slashed the officer's head with scissors during a confrontation inside an East Huntingdon grocery store around 9:15 a.m. Friday, police said.
The trooper had arrived to investigate a disturbance at the Save a Lot store in Crossroads Plaza outside Mt. Pleasant, when Seth W. O'Donnell, formerly of Scottdale, slashed the officer near the doorway and the trooper shot him, according to Trooper Stephen Limani of the Greensburg barracks.
"After the suspect was shot, he got up and made it to the parking before he collapsed a few steps outside the store," Limani said. O'Donnell died in the parking lot.
Police knew O'Donnell from previous incidents.
In August, O'Donnell was given credit for time served in connection with the beating of his mother, her companion and an elderly neighbor with a three-pound mantle clock at the mother's home in East Huntingdon last Feb. 24.
Judge Debra Pezze ordered O'Donnell to continue mental health treatment and to undergo drug and alcohol counseling.
Six months after the attacks, O'Donnell pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of simple assault for attacking his mother, Tammy Tabaj, and her companion, Richard Kriger, both teachers at Southmoreland Elementary School. Also assaulted was Gertrude Pinskey, a next-door neighbor, who attempted to assist Tabaj.
All three victims required medical treatment at area hospitals.
The officer injured yesterday, who has not been identified, is a 10-year veteran of the force, Limani said. The cut to his head required several stitches, he said.
A shopper in the store, Joyce Gales of Connellsville, said she saw that the trooper was bleeding from the head, then heard four shots fired.
Gales described O'Donnell as a tall, thin white man who was wearing a white cap with ear flaps made of animal skin. She said he was standing near the check-out counter and he started to drink a soda and munch on snacks he had not paid for.
"The cashier told him if he was going to eat it, he had to pay for it," Gales said.
Gales said the confrontation made her uncomfortable. She said another clerk opened another cash register to check her out.
She witnessed the slashing and shooting from outside the store in the parking lot.
Limani said troopers were initially summoned to the Wal-Mart store for another incident involving O'Donnell about 15 minutes earlier around 9 a.m.
"We received an initial call from Wal-Mart saying the man was in there acting violently with scissors, and he subsequently moved from that store to the Save a Lot," Limani said.
The Wal-Mart is about a half-mile away from the Save-A-Lot.
"There was an earlier confrontation where he threatened customers and employees with scissors," Limani said.
Limani said the trooper "engaged O'Donnell ...attempted to calm him" when O'Donnell slashed him as he walked out the door. He said the trooper drew his weapon and fired to protect himself.
The Westmoreland County coroner's office pronounced O'Donnell dead at Excela Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant.
Investigators remained at the Save a Lot for more than three hours after the shooting, interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence and spent shell casings. The front windows of the store were shattered by gunfire, and numerous evidence markers lay on the sidewalk.
"It's a sad situation when this kind of stuff happens," Gales said. "You just can't believe it."
The shopping plaza was the scene of another fatal shooting nearly 28 years ago.
Trooper Gary Fisher, 26, was killed Feb. 3, 1985 during an undercover drug buy. Fisher accidently shot himself with his service revolver as he attempted to arrest a suspect in the snow-covered parking lot. During a scuffle, Fisher slipped and his weapon accidently discharged.
Three suspects were arrested and charged with homicide, but forensic tests later revealed the shooting was accidental.
Copyright 2013 - Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service