Retired state trooper named suspected gunman in deadly turnpike attack

Photo courtesy: PA Commonwealth Media Services

Two employees were killed in an attempted robbery on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in which the suspect was also shot and killed.

According to state police, the suspect is Clarence Briggs, a retired Pennsylvania State Police Trooper from Newville.

Danny Crouse, 55, and Ronald Heist, 71, died in the incident.

Crouse was a toll worker who had only been on the job for three months.

Heist was a security guard contracted by the turnpike. He is a former York City police officer.

State police say the crime occurred just before 7 a.m. Sunday at the Fort Littleton Interchange in Dublin Township, Fulton County in south-central Pennsylvania.

Capt. David Cain, of the Pennsylvania State Police Troop T, said Briggs confronted Crouse and a female employee while they were working in a toll booth.

Briggs displayed a handgun and ordered Crouse and the woman to go to the turnpike office building, where Briggs attempted to tie them up.

A struggle ensued, then Briggs left the building.

Crouse and woman left the office building, and at the same time, a fare collection armored vehicle arrived at the interchange.

Heist, the fare collection vehicle security guard, exited the car and was confronted by Briggs. Then, Briggs shot and killed Crouse and Heist.

Briggs fired shots at the vehicle, and the driver was able to flee on foot.

Briggs got into the vehicle and drove it a short distance across SR 522 to an area where his car was parked.

Briggs started to unload money from the armored vehicle into his car.

Troopers arrived on scene minutes after the call came across the radio.

The first responding trooper that arrived on scene encountered Briggs from a distance and exchanged gunfire.

A police scanner conversation says describes this scene, "one civilian, one security guard deceased, one suspect we have cornered by a red van."

The scanner chatter also describes Briggs as wearing a camouflage mask and cargo pants.

The trooper shot Briggs, who succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

Troop G of the PSP in Hollidaysburg is actively investigating the incident.

Briggs retired from Troop T Newville station, which is part of the turnpike system.Briggs retired honorably from PSP after 26 years of service in January 2012.

"On behalf of my fellow Turnpike commissioners and everybody in the PA Turnpike family, we are all deeply saddened by this horrific tragedy," Turnpike Chairman Sean Logan said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the deceased victims, the turnpike employee and the contractor. We cannot imagine what the families must be feeling right now. Certainly, today will be a day that none of us will soon forget."

Logan said commissioners and other officials are "deeply saddened by this horrific tragedy."

The female employee, who was initially confronted by Briggs, is a toll collector. She was not injured in the incident.

"She's a tough woman," Logan said, "She is home resting and recovering. We told her to take some time off. She said she'll be back to work in a day or two, which I believe that."

Logan says he will ensure turnpike employees and their families will receive counseling if needed, "We'll expend whatever resources we need."

"We'll bounce back," Logan said of his fellow turnpike employees.

The ramp at Exit 180 remains closed in both directions, but traffic is not backed up in the area.

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