A community is in distress following a harrowing incident that unfolded on Wednesday in East Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, where eight people, including children, are feared missing after a suspect set a house on fire and engaged in a shootout that resulted in two police officers being wounded.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer expressed deep concern about the possibility of fatalities within the charred remains of the home.
“Our fear is there may be multiple people inside that home who have died,” Stollsteimer stated during a press briefing, per abc11.
“We don’t know yet whether or not we can confirm or deny that until we get inside and methodically go through the debris that that house is now.”
The chaotic sequence of events began with a response to a distressing call about an 11-year-old potentially shot, a detail which remains unverified. Upon arrival at approximately 3:45 p.m., officers were immediately met with gunfire from the shooter inside a house, as recounted by local crossing guard and witness Sharon Johnson to NBC10.
“I was there, a cop came flying around the corner,” Sharon Johnson said. “He got out and then he’s in front of the house talking to two people. And then all of a sudden I heard six or seven gunshots. Cops got down on the ground and I ran and took off.”
Both officers, each a 22-year veteran of the force, sustained gunshot wounds; one to the arm and the other to the leg. Margie McAboy, a representative for the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, confirmed their stable condition.
While the officers were being rescued, the situation took another dire turn as the house caught fire. The fire and ongoing threat from the shooter prevented firefighters from addressing the flames immediately, leading to an intense standoff that necessitated a large-scale evacuation and the deployment of additional law enforcement and emergency services.
Law enforcement and emergency response teams, including a SWAT team, converged on the scene. By 6 p.m., the fire was largely subdued, although the situation remained precarious.
As of the last update from Stollsteimer, given at a 7:30 p.m. press conference, six to eight residents of the burned home, children amongst them, are unaccounted for. The search for these individuals is hindered by the smoldering remains of the property.
“We’re aware that there are at least six to eight people who are unaccounted for from that family. It is our terrible fear that they may have been inside that house when it was burned,” Stollsteimer said. “We are hopeful that that is not true. But we will not know until tomorrow morning.”