The shooter was fatally shot at the scene

By Tim Nudd
Updated March 21, 2016 09:25 AM
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Credit: Daniel Zampogna/PennLive.com/AP

A retired state trooper killed two men Sunday morning when he tried to rob a fare collection vehicle at a turnpike toll booth in rural Pennsylvania, PEOPLE confirms.

The retired trooper was subsequently fatally shot by an active trooper, according to police.

The shooter was identified as Clarence D. Briggs, 55, of Newville, the Pennsylvania State Police said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.

The victims were Daniel Crouse, 55, a turnpike employee, and Ronald Heist, 71, a security guard for the fare collection vehicle.

Police described the events, which began just before 7 a.m. Sunday at the turnpike interchange on I-76 in Fort Littleton – two hours east of Pittsburgh and an hour west of Harrisburg – as an elaborate armed robbery gone wrong.

The shooter arrived at the interchange and initially forced Crouse and another turnpike employee into a turnpike office building at gunpoint, police said. As he was trying to tie them up, a struggle ensued and the shooter ran outside.

At the same time, a fare collection vehicle arrived. The shooter then gunned down Heist, who was a passenger in the vehicle, and Crouse, who had followed the shooter outside, police said. The vehicle’s driver managed to flee on foot and was not harmed, but the driver left the vehicle behind.

The shooter then took the vehicle and drove it a short distance to his own vehicle, whereupon he began transferring money from the collection vehicle into his own. State troopers soon arrived and exchanged gunfire with the shooter, who was shot “and succumbed to his injuries at the scene,” police said.

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Dave Fogal, who runs a service station on Route 522, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he saw much of the episode transpire.

“At first when I heard the popping, I thought it was a tire going off,” Fogal said. “But I looked through the big window and I saw a guy walking down the road with a gun and he went over to the turnpike. There was the red van that picks up the [toll] money. He went over to that and there were more gunshots.”

“I didn’t know what to think. I don’t think I was sure what was going on,” said Fogal, who added he alternated between ducking and looking out his store window for about 15 minutes.

The major case team from Pennsylvania State Police Troop G, based in Hollidaysburg, is investigating the shooting. The shooter retired from Troop T, based in Newville, in January 2012, police said.

“On behalf of Gov. Tom Wolf and my fellow Turnpike Commission members and everyone in our Turnpike family, we are saddened by this horrific tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims,” Sean Logan, chairman of the state Turnpike Commission, said in an emotional statement at a news conference Sunday night.

“We will expend whatever resources are necessary to find out exactly what transpired this morning and make sure the system is secure and our employees are protected,” Logan added.