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November 12, 2012

Soldier, parents face lawsuit in shooting

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County woman has filed a civil lawsuit against the Johnstown parents of an Army veteran who went on a shooting rampage more than three years ago, leaving a man and a teenager dead and critically wounding her.

Michelle Petty, 36, of Hollidaysburg, and her husband, Gerald A. Petty Jr., are suing Daniel E. and Karen A. Horner because they permitted their son, Nicolas Adam Horner, to possess and carry the .45 caliber handgun registered to Daniel Horner.

The lawsuit also names Nicholas Horner as a defendant in the action.

In testimony during Nicholas Horner’s March trial Altoona, Allegheny Township police testified that it was a .45 caliber gun registered to Daniel Horner that was used to wound Petty and kill Scott Garlick and Raymond Williams.

Garlick, 19, a senior at Hollidaysburg High School, was working part time at the 58th Street Subway on April 6, 2009, when Horner went in the back door, pulled a gun and shot him in the neck. Garlick died minutes later.

Horner, 32, went toward the front of the business, where he shot Petty in the pelvis.

He then moved on to the register, where he demanded cash and left by the front door.

He ran a few blocks into Allegheny Township, where he encountered Williams, 64, at a bank of mailboxes. He shot Williams several times, grabbed the mail from the hands of the retired insurance executive and took his car keys.

Williams and his wife had recently moved to Blair County from their longtime home in Northern Cambria following his retirement as an insurance executive with offices in the Vinco area.

Horner, a 1999 Conemaugh Valley graduate who had served two tours in Iraq and one in Kuwait, ran a few blocks before encountering police and being arrested.

A jury in late March convicted Horner of two counts of first-degree murder and related charges but failed to give him the death penalty. He is now serving two life sentences plus 29 to 59 years in state prison.

The jury found Horner guilty of aggravated assault and terroristic  threats in the shooting of Petty, but acquitted him of one count of attempted criminal homicide.

The lawsuit filed by Hollidaysburg attorney Joseph J. Nypaver, who was in the courtroom as an observer during portions of the Horner trial, is seeking more than $50,000 in damages on each of the four counts the defendant was convicted of regarding Petty.

Key in the lawsuit is the mental instability Horner suffered as the result of his experiences while in the Middle East as part of his military service.

He had been diagnosed by the U.S. Army with post-traumatic stress disorder, resulting in medication that played a role in his actions on the day of the shootings, according to his criminal defense attorney, Thomas Dickey.

In the civil suit, Nypaver says the law requires that a registered gun owner should never allow a person to “continue possession of their handgun when they know the person is not competent to possess a handgun.”

The Horners are represented by  attorney John W. Heslop Jr., a Johnstown native now living in Altoona.

Heslop said Monday through an office representative that he had no comment on the case.

Trial testimony showed that Horner admitted to having spells of irrational and violent behavior and at times lacked sound judgment.

Last year, the families of Garlick and Williams cited intentions to file civil lawsuits against the Horners.

To date they have not taken that step.

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