By Molly Born
PITTSBURGH — Authorities in two Central Pennsylvania counties are trying to determine what caused a man to rob a bank Monday afternoon, lead police on a chase spanning three hours and at least 50 miles, then shoot two troopers before killing himself.
State police said Dakin Burgess, 37, of Pittsburgh opened fire twice on troopers Monday in a bizarre series of events they believe may have begun with a bomb threat on Friday.
The first trooper was shot in the foot along Interstate 81 in Franklin County Monday and underwent surgery at Chambersburg Hospital. Later that night, a second trooper was shot in the shoulder not far from a cornfield in Cumberland County and was admitted to Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
Authorities were not releasing the troopers' names Tuesday, but Cumberland County District Attorney David J. Freed described their conditions as stable.
Both attempted to pursue Burgess after being wounded, state police said.
Burgess was shot once during an exchange, but then shot himself to death either before or after crashing his minivan, authorities said.
"He was very desperate, and he would do anything he could to get away," said Trooper First Class Edward S. Asbury.
The incident began shortly before 5 p.m. at the M&T Bank near Chambersburg. Mr. Freed said Burgess, wearing a stocking over his face with a mustache and glasses painted on it, showed a handgun and demanded money.
He made off with around $12,000, later found in his minivan, and a trooper spotted him fleeing on Route 997, state police said.
As the trooper pursued him, Burgess accelerated. A traffic stop ensued, Mr. Freed said, and Burgess got out of the minivan and fired several shots, one hitting the trooper's foot, as well as the patrol vehicle.
Burgess then fled and continued northbound into the Shippensburg area in Cumberland County.
Pennsylvania and Maryland state police helicopters tracked his movements, and he drove into a cornfield in an attempt to hide, Trooper Asbury said. After roughly an hour, Mr. Freed said, he fled again and the pursuit resumed with Burgess firing repeatedly at troopers.
Burgess and two troopers exchanged gunfire near the intersection of Roxbury and Metal roads in Upper Mifflin and one trooper was struck in the shoulder, authorities said. That trooper gave chase for another 2.6 miles before stopping because of the wound.
After a trooper rammed him, Burgess finally crashed his minivan and was found dead inside, from what was determined Tuesday to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Mr. Freed said troopers from Chambersburg, Carlisle and Gettysburg were involved in the incident.
In searching the minivan, police found evidence, including "bomb-making material" they said linked Burgess to a threat Friday at the Marion Mennonite Church Preschool in Guilford, Franklin County.
Trooper Asbury said that someone called either state police or the facility to say that a device would go off as children were being dismissed for the day. Police found and removed a suspicious device outside the preschool. Some children and adults were evacuated and police closed a major thoroughfare as a result.
What Burgess was doing in Franklin County before the bank robbery was not immediately clear Tuesday.
Authorities continue to investigate.
"Certainly you're going to look into the background and see what's going on in this person's life," Mr. Freed said.
Court records show Burgess pleaded guilty to a DUI and related driving offenses in 2001 as well as a felony criminal attempt in 2005, although the nature of that conviction was not immediately clear. A prior conviction prevented him from owning a gun, Mr. Freed said.
An autopsy was conducted Tuesday and blood was drawn for toxicology tests, as per protocol, Mr. Freed said.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2013 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette