An Indiana County man was gunned down Monday because two men were tired of his “ripping them off” for drugs, police said.
State police based in Indiana said James Alexander, 46, of Ernest, met the men on a Clymer walking trail to sell them heroin. Instead, he was shot in the head and robbed, investigators said.
In a criminal complaint filed Tuesday evening, troopers alleged that Christopher W. Salsgiver, 22, of Glen Campbell, fired the shot that killed Alexander.
Salsgiver and an accomplice, Gregory Patterson, 33, also of Glen Campbell, took off with more than $300 in cash and two packaged “bricks” of heroin, police said in the complaint.
A witness who was on the trail during the initial drug exchange said he saw Salsgiver pull a gun from his shirt and yell for Alexander to “get on the ground” moments before a shot was fired, according to police.
“Patterson said that Salsgiver had the gun and pulled the trigger ... that it was planned and they were tired of Alexander ripping them off,” Trooper Douglas Snyder wrote in the complaint. He said Patterson gave police a recorded statement during an interview Tuesday.
Alexander was at a party earlier that night but left for a walk on the Clymer trail between Sage Street and Route 403 in town.
Friends heard shots fired a short time later, police said.
Indiana County Chief Deputy Coroner Jerry L. Overman Jr. said friends found Alexander’s body along the trail shortly after 9:20 p.m.
An entrance to the paved bike trail, which runs through wooded former railroad property along the edge of the downtown, was reopened by Wednesday. The entrance had been blocked off with caution tape earlier in the week. The trail appeared to be empty all afternoon.
About a block away, Clymer resident Mick Cogley, 46, sat on the back patio of a social club, reflecting on bus rides with Alexander when both were in middle school 30 years ago.
Cogley described the stocky Alexander as a “quiet guy” in school who somehow earned the nickname “Pork.”
“Back then, we stuck up for each other because we were pretty much the only minorities in the school,” said Cogley, who is of Asian descent.
Alexander, who was black, usually turned the other cheek, Cogley said, while he fought back.
“Honestly, I don’t ever remember him losing his temper,” Cogley said, adding that he’d seen less of Alexander in the decades since.
Alexander got in “some trouble” and spent time in jail once or twice, he added, and then returned to Clymer a few years ago.
In town, Alexander “pretty much kept to himself,” Cogley said.
Court records show Alexander was arrested or cited a handful of times over the past five years, including burglary and theft charges in 2012.
Alexander met his assailants Monday looking to sell them drugs and apparently knew the men, state police said.
Residents in the small community in Penns Manor School District called Monday’s homicide a glaring example of a growing drug problem in town. Many said they did not feel safe commenting publicly.
Clymer, like so many small towns, is struggling to battle drug issues, said one resident, Jake Patterson – no relation to the Glen Campbell man accused in the crime.
“It’s an everyday thing – I know that,” Jake Patterson said. “But I don’t feel unsafe here. This is the first incident like this I can remember happening in the 40 years I’ve been here.”
‘I’ve raised my family here ... this is a pretty good town,” he added.
Clymer Mayor Dennis Clawson called Monday’s incident troubling in a town “so near and dear to my heart,” but said it was premature to comment because borough and state police are still investigating the case.
Both suspects are being held without bail in the Indiana County Jail on homicide charges as well as aggravated assault, robbery and conspiracy to assault and robbery, police said.
Preliminary hearings are scheduled for Tuesday before District Judge George Thachik of Clymer.