Galla tragedy, LA case share eerie similarities

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From the start, it sounded a lot like the February case in the Los Angeles area, but it was right here in Mount Carmel: An ex-cop with military training involved in a shooting, on the loose, boasting that he'll outwit police and promising not to be taken alive.

There were many eerie similarities between the case of Christopher Dorner and that of Anthony James Galla, including that both did die prior to capture. Our local story this week was only better in that no one else was killed.

Galla, a former part-time police officer in Kulpmont, Mount Carmel, Mount Carmel Township and Butler Township, Schuylkill County, allegedly broke into the home of an ex-girlfriend at about 1 a.m. Tuesday and shot her boyfriend in the foot before fleeing. At about 5:30 that night, he was shot and killed by members of a U.S. Marshals Task Force in a motel room near Philadelphia. The tragedy played out across some 115 miles.

Galla made note of his knowledge of criminal investigations in his conversation with a Mount Carmel policeman; the two spoke by phone when the officer was processing the scene at the Mount Carmel victim's home. That's when Galla also made "several indications of possible suicide by police" and that he'd be involved in a police shooting, authorities reported.

Police acknowledged that dealing with a former officer put the manhunt on more of a "level playing field," and they alerted the public to the fact that Galla may have law enforcement credentials, a real concern considering his actions and threats.

Still, police were able to track down Galla relatively quickly, family connections no doubt playing a role in leading them to the hotel in Upper Darby; Galla had a brother in that Philly suburb.

In the Dormer case, which lasted a week, three people were killed before police cornered him in a mountain cabin near Big Bear Lake, about 80 miles from Los Angeles. A shootout in which a fourth person, a deputy, was killed, took place before the cabin was engulfed in flames. A single gunshot was heard from within, and a charred body was found inside.

As AP reported at the time, "The search for the most wanted man in America over the last week ... ended the way he had expected - death, with the police pursuing him."

Dormer was a Navy reservist who had launched a campaign to exact revenge against the Los Angeles Police Department for his firing. They say he threatened to bring "warfare" to officers and their families, spreading fear and setting off a search for him across the Southwest and Mexico. He said he would get even with those who wronged him as part of his plan to reclaim his good name.

Although it's not clear to what he was referring, Galla - a Marine reservist - had told police during their phone conversation, "The real Anthony Galla is back."

Police say Dorner began his run on Feb. 6 after they connected the slayings of a former police captain's daughter and her fiance with an angry Facebook rant they said he posted. Threats against the LAPD led officials to assign officers to protect officers and their families - not unlike what Mount Carmel police did with Galla's victims in the borough until he was captured and killed.

Frightening as the Galla case was, we again recognize the efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement officials in helping to keep innocent people safe during this terrifying ordeal.

(Andy Heintzelman, editor of The News-Item, writes "The Week In News" for each Saturday edition.)

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