SUMMIT STATION – A 56-year-old man was shot and killed by state police Wednesday after he allegedly pointed a 12-gauge shotgun at troopers serving a search warrant at his home.
Trooper Bernard Walasavage of the Schuylkill Haven station identified the man as Jeffrey A. Wolfe of 6 Blue Mountain Heights, Wayne Township.
Troopers obtained the warrant for Wolfe’s home after learning over a two-year period that Wolfe had an operational methamphetamine lab at his trailer just off Route 183, said Sgt. Steven Stinsky, commander of the Schuylkill Haven station.
About 6 a.m. Wednesday, members of the state police Special Emergency Response Team executed the warrant at Wolfe’s home. The troopers identified themselves as police, entered the home and found Wolfe in a bedroom, where he pointed a loaded, pump-action shotgun at troopers, Walasavage said.
Wolfe was then shot and killed by a member of the SERT team, Stinsky said.
A tactical medic who accompanied the SERT members determined at 6:08 a.m. that Wolfe had died.
A woman, whom police have not identified, was also in the home, Stinsky said. She was not injured and police said she is part of the ongoing investigation.
Getting the warrant
In his 13-page affidavit of probable cause attached to the warrant, state police Trooper Troy S. Greenawald of the Reading station said a reliable confidential informant told him Wolfe manufactured and sold meth.
“This confidential informant has been a member of the drug culture in Schuylkill County … and has managed to gain the trust and confidence of area drug dealers,” Greenawald wrote in the affidavit.
On three occasions between April 6 and Monday, the confidential informant bought meth from Wolfe at his 6 Blue Mountain Heights home, Greenawald wrote in the affidavit. All three purchases were controlled buys, in which Greenawald searched the confidential informant before and after the purchases, provided him with money for them and kept him under surveillance, Greenawald wrote in the affidavit.
After each controlled buy, Greenawalt field-tested the substance the confidential informant brought back to him, and each time it tested positive for meth.
Also, Wolfe had been traveling weekly to Reading at least since March 2009 to buy cocaine and meth, Greenawald wrote in the affidavit.
Magisterial District Judge James R. Ferrier, Orwigsburg, had issued the search warrant at 2 p.m. Tuesday for Wolfe’s property.
Stinsky said the SERT team was called to execute the warrant due to the risk of a violent encounter with Wolfe. He said several things were taken into consideration, including the “paranoia associated with a long-time user of methamphetamine,” along with the presence of firearms and an active meth lab inside the home.
“We felt that it was prudent,” Stinsky said about using a SERT response.
Capt. Dante Orlandi of Troop L Headquarters, Reading, said that more than a dozen specially trained troopers took part in the operation.
Investigating the shooting
Stinsky said that, in accordance with state police policy, the trooper who shot Wolfe – who is not stationed at the Schuylkill Haven station – was placed on administrative duties for the duration of the investigation into the shooting.
Stinsky said protocol requires a separate investigation into the shooting in addition to the ongoing meth investigation.
Schuylkill County District Attorney James P. Goodman said Wednesday that detectives from his office were at the scene.
“We will be doing an investigation” into the shooting, as is his practice in such cases, Goodman said.
Goodman did not indicate how long his investigation would take.
“I don’t have any time frame on an investigation like this,” he said.
In the last such case, Goodman ruled on July 1, 2010, that police were justified in shooting Scott Mackelvey, 41, of Tuscarora, on May 25, 2010, in a confrontation in Walker Township.
Securing the scene
After Wolfe was shot, Stinsky said, the scene was secured by the state Clandestine Laboratory Response Team.
Troopers found an operational meth lab in a bedroom across from where Wolfe and the woman were found.
Along with the shotgun, troopers confiscated another loaded weapon from inside the building, a large quantity of chemicals used in the manufacture of meth and audio and visual recording devices.
Stinsky said Wolfe had a monitor in his bedroom that allowed him to observe anyone approaching the house.
“In my mind, there’s no question the suspect knew the police were at his residence,” Stinsky said.
It took several hours for troopers to remove hazardous chemicals and other items from inside the home.
Stinsky said that when the house was cleared of the makings of the “sizable lab operation,” the danger to people living nearby was eliminated.
Schuylkill County Coroner Joseph E. Lipsett pronounced Wolfe dead after the scene was secured, and forensic pathologist Dr. Richard P. Bindie is expected to perform an autopsy to determine both the cause and manner of death.
History of crime
Wednesday’s raid was not Wolfe’s first encounter with law enforcement.
He pleaded guilty May 31, 2007, before Schuylkill County President Judge William E. Baldwin to possession of a controlled substance, driving under the influence and disregarding traffic lanes, all of which state police at Schuylkill Haven had charged him with committing Dec. 30, 2005.
Baldwin sentenced Wolfe on Aug. 1, 2007, to spend five years in the intermediate punishment program, which combines punishment with treatment of addiction problems, and to pay costs, $1,525 in fines and $300 to the Substance Abuse Education Fund. Wolfe was still under court supervision in that case.
In his affidavit of probable cause, Greenawald wrote that Wolfe also had pleaded guilty Nov. 10, 1981, to possession of a controlled substance. Details of that conviction were not available Wednesday.