By Paul Muschi
The Morning Call
JIM THORPE, Pa. — The Lansford police officer who was taken hostage at gunpoint Friday night by another borough officer tried but failed to keep his abductor from committing suicide, the Carbon County sheriff said Saturday.
Sheriff Dwight Nothstein identified Officer Chris Ondrus as the hostage and said he was not injured but "very shook up." He said he spoke with Ondrus after the other officer, identified by authorities as David Midas, shot himself shortly before 8 p.m. on a busy Jim Thorpe street.
Authorities said Midas drove the hostage to Broadway in the borough's downtown, where there was a struggle between the men before Midas shot himself on the street.
Nothstein said the struggle was over the gun. He said Ondrus "tried to get the gun away from him but he got away and he stepped out of the car and he shot himself."
Jim Dugan of Dugan's Store, which is on Broadway, said he was in the shop, getting ready to watch the Jim Thorpe Area High School football game on television when he heard the shot, which he thought was a firecracker.
He went outside and saw a man wearing civilian clothes lying in the street near the sidewalk.
He said another man was near the prone man, crying, "Dave, why? Dave, why?"
Dugan said he knew Midas because Midas also worked as a part-time police officer in Jim Thorpe and sometimes came into the store, which Dugan helps run and is owned by his brother. He said he did not recognize Midas as the shooting victim.
Dugan said he did not see a weapon. He said there was a car across the street with its driver's side door open but that it was not a marked police vehicle.
"I have no idea what was going on," he said.
On Saturday, amid the tourists that flock to the scenic borough in the fall, police were visiting shops and restaurants, looking for businesses with video cameras that may have recorded the incident.
Midas, 33, of Weatherly, had been a part-time officer in Lansford since 2002. He also was a lieutenant for the sheriff's department, where he was in charge of court scheduling and prisoner transports, Nothstein said. He taught self-defense and previously had been a firearms instructor.
"He was planning to take my place when I retire in two years," Nothstein said.
Lehighton state police are in charge of the investigation. They said no new information was available Saturday.
Nothstein said Midas "was having problems" but declined to be more specific, citing the ongoing investigation.
"It seems that it escalated and he just couldn't handle it," Nothstein said. "He shot his dog and he called his parents and told them that he was going to do this and he wasn't going to be alive in 15 minutes."
Midas was pronounced dead at 2:53 a.m. Saturday at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said in a news release. Grim ruled the death a suicide.
Rose Mary Cannon, Lansford Borough Council president, said grief counseling was being provided to the department's officers.
"It's just an unfortunate incident," she said.
She described Midas as a "very affable young man" who was diligent in his work.
"It's a senseless loss of life," Cannon said.
Jim Thorpe police said Midas, who was off-duty and acting erratically, used a Lansford police car when he took his co-worker hostage and took ammunition from the borough police station.
Cannon said she will be meeting with the borough's mayor Saturday to discuss whether the department needs to review any policies in connection with the incident.
Mayor Ron Hood said both officers were off-duty. He confirmed Midas was at the police station Friday but declined to say more. He said all part-time officers have keys to the building and access to everything there.
"If something would happen, they need to get in here," Hood said.
He noted that policy will be reviewed.
He declined to discuss the incident but described the officers involved as "best friends" and said there were no issues between them.
Reporter Frank Warner contributed to this story.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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