Sandra K Reabuck
A Johnstown man who authorities said was accelerating his vehicle toward police officers and emergency vehicles was shot and killed, and two others were wounded by city police early Monday in the city’s Oakhurst section.
The dead man was identified as 27-year-old Elip Cheatham of Ash Street, who was pronounced dead in the operating room at Memorial Medical Center while undergoing surgery.
The shooting took place at the end of a series of events that began shortly after midnight when a Johnstown police sergeant – apparently on patrol – spotted a large group of people outside Edder’s Den, a bar on Sheridan Street, and thought he heard shots fired.
The events culminated several blocks away outside the Save-A-Lot shopping plaza on North Sheridan Street when police stopped another vehicle, which reportedly had fled from the Edder’s Den area. Police said the Cheatham vehicle approached and then accelerated.
Whether Cheatham and his two passengers and the driver and occupant of the other vehicle knew each other and were involved in events outside Edder’s Den still is under investigation.
Later Monday, a Johnstown man was charged by state police with shooting another man outside Edder’s Den around 12:30 a.m.
Shy-Tyquon Lawton, 27, was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, person not to possess a firearm, carrying a firearm without a license, flight to avoid apprehension and resisting arrest.
He was arraigned before District Judge Mary Ann Zanghi of Vinco and lodged in the Cambria County Prison in lieu of $75,000 bail.
Police said that Lawton shot Cardell Clinton, 20, of Johnstown, one time in the left hip area and fled the scene.
Lawton subsequently was apprehended by Johnstown officers, police said.
Three Johnstown police officers who were involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. One of the officers is a 15-year veteran of the department; a second is a four-year veteran; and the third is a one-year veteran.
Their names were not released by authorities.
Jeffrey Lees, Cambria County chief deputy coroner, said that Cheatham had been shot multiple times, including a fatal wound to the chest.
The death has been ruled a homicide, and an ongoing investigation by the state police will determine whether the use of deadly force by the city police was justified, First Assistant District Attorney Heath Long said.
The names of the two other wounded people were not released by the state police.
Johnstown police Chief Craig Foust, following departmental procedure, turned the investigation over to the state police because it was an officer-involved shooting.
The two wounded people had been passengers in the car driven by Cheatham, Trooper John Matchik said.
One of the wounded was released after being treated at the hospital, and the second was still being treated at the hospital Tuesday afternoon. A condition report was not available on the second person, Matchik said.
No police officers and neither of the two people in the other vehicle were injured, the trooper said.
A team of 15 to 20 state troopers was quickly assembled to investigate the series of events leading up to and ending in the fatal shooting, Matchik said at a news conference at the Ebensburg barracks.
He said, “This is still very much an active investigation involving precise investigative methods. We still have quite a bit of work to do. We are methodically working to interview everyone involved, executing search warrants on the involved vehicles and persons, and locating and examining physical evidence.”
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