Sunbury police taking phone threat seriously
SUNBURY - Police remain on guard after a "credible threat" was made on Sunbury officers believed to be in retaliation for the shooting of a 17-year-old male following a car pursuit early Wednesday morning.
Police chief Stephen Mazzeo reported Friday the Northumberland County 911 Center received a call at approximately 7 p.m. Wednesday from a person who claimed he was going to come to Sunbury and harm officers.
"You shot my cousin seven times," the man told a dispatcher. "Now, I will shoot seven cops."
Police said only one shot was fired at Naheem Reams, 17, after the teen allegedly drove a 1997 Saturn into two police vehicles and attempted to run over a police officer. According to an investigation by state police, the officer simultaneously jumped out of the path of the vehicle and fired a shot through the front windshield, hitting Reams.
Reams remained in critical condition as of 3 p.m. Friday, according to a Geisinger Medical Center spokesperson.
Protocol in place
While the caller who threatened police said he was coming from Los Angeles, Mazzeo said the call was traced to a known member of a Bloods gang in New York, and that the threat is being taken seriously.
"We have our threat protocols in place and the matter is under investigation, but we are not taking any chances with this," the chief said Friday morning.
The threat marked the latest tense moment for police since the shooting incident. Other derogatory remarks and promises of violence were posted by Reams' friends on Facebook, but Mazzeo said he is not as worried about those as he is about the phone call.
"I don't put much stock in Facebook, but the call will be something we will definitely look into and prepare for," Mazzeo said. "The people that have been saying those comments (online) about the police are people that have a negative view of the department anyway."
Street sweeping detail
The incident began when Sunbury Police Department was attempting to clear local streets of vehicles for weekly street cleaning at approximately 1 a.m. Wednesday. Officers encountered a vehicle parked along Fifth Street near Brennan's Farm Road that was occupied by the suspect, the state police report said. Brennan's Farm Road is a short street connecting Fifth and Sixth streets, just south of Reagan Street near Goodwill Hose Company.
Police said they "attempted to request" the suspect move his vehicle, but he took off "in a reckless manner." He refused to pull over when police tried to initiate a traffic stop and committed multiple traffic violations while he traveled through the city at a high rate of speed, according to police.
In the area of Chestnut Street (Route 61 south) and Front Street (Route 147), the suspect's vehicle struck two Sunbury Police Department vehicles and the suspect attempted to strike a city officer with his car, police said.
According to a probable cause affidavit obtained through the Northumberland County Prothonotary's office Thursday, "the police officer, simultaneously while taking evasive action from being hit, shot into the car's windshield."
The officer, who has not been identified due to the ongoing investigation, suffered a minor head injury and was treated and released from a local hospital following the incident. State police at Stonington are investigating the shooting and the three city police officers have been placed on administrative leave.
Once the investigation is complete, the findings will be handed over to the Northumberland County District Attorney's office, who will review the information and make a determination on whether the shooting was justified.
According to Mazzeo, officers were surprised that Reams reacted the way he did because they only asked him to move his car.
"The officers had no idea who the individual was, or if he was wanted for anything. They were merely on sweeper detail," Mazzeo said.
William Rossnock, chief juvenile probation officer for Northumberland County, said a warrant was issued for Reams on May 20, but Russnock would not provide it's details. He also chose not to say why Reams is under the probation department's supervision because of the investigation into Wednesday's shooting.
Force is strong
Despite the administrative leave orders, Mazzeo said the police force is strong.
"We still have full-time officers working," Mazzeo said. "It's costing us some overtime, but all of the officers are handling it professionally and very well."
Mazzeo could not give details of the damage on the police vehicles, citing the investigation, but said the vehicles are usable.
"Once the state completes its investigation, we will be getting them fixed and submitting the claim to our insurance company," The chief said.