CLEARFIELD — Pennsylvania State Police shot and killed an armed suspect following a lengthy standoff in the East End neighborhood of Clearfield early Thursday.
Christopher Kanouff, 48, of Clearfield was shot and killed by a member of the state police Special Emergency Response Team, after he refused commands to drop his handgun, Tpr. Bruce Morris said at a press conference held Thursday at the State Police Clearfield Barracks.
Clearfield Borough Police Chief Vincent McGinnis, District Attorney Ryan Sayers and Captain Wayne Kline of Punxsutawney-based state police also attended the press conference.
According to Morris, Kanouff had barricaded himself inside an apartment building on the 800 block of Daisy Street and was threatening to shoot police and civilians. The SERT team then entered the building, went upstairs and encountered Kanouff. Kanouff reportedly refused police commands to drop his firearm. A member of the SERT team fired a single shot that killed Kanouff, Morris said.
The incident started at approximately 6 p.m. Wednesday when Clearfield Borough Police officers conducted a traffic stop along the 300 block of Daisy Street, according to authorities. Kanouff was driving a vehicle with an expired registration plate and it was suspended by an insurance cancellation. The officers also determined that Kanouff had an active state probation/parole warrant and removed Kanouff from the vehicle, Morris said.
When Kanouff pulled away, the officers reportedly observed a black semi-automatic handgun in the waistband of his pants. The officers were able to talk Kanouff down to his knees, but he rose to his feet and fled on foot east on Daisy Street, according to police.
Police pursued and Kanouff allegedly pointed his firearm at the officers several times. Police from neighboring jurisdictions responded, and he was located at 802 Daisy St. where Kanouff had barricaded himself inside of his apartment, Morris said.
Police made verbal contact with Kanouff but he reportedly refused to exit the building. A perimeter was established around the building using local police, state troopers and the state police SERT team responded to the scene, according to authorities.
Criminal charges were prepared including two counts of aggravated assault and an arrest warrant was obtained, as detailed at the press conference.
Kline said they were able to maintain contact with Kanouff until approximately 1-2 a.m.
Kline said he did not know if Kanouff was under the influence at the time of the incident.
At approximately 1-2 a.m. Kanouff began making threats to shoot civilians along the street, Morris said.
SERT team members allegedly made numerous attempts to contact Kanouff, instructing him to exit the apartment peacefully — with negative results. The SERT team then deployed chemical agents inside Kanouff’s apartment, but Kanouff reportedly broke into an unoccupied adjacent apartment. Chemical agents were then deployed inside that apartment as well.
Kanouff exited that apartment and that is when he encountered the SERT team inside the building, police said.
“At approximately 2:50 a.m. on Oct. 15, Kanouff was shot by police and he was pronounced dead on the scene,” Morris said.
As far as officials know, Kanouff did not fire his weapon, Sayers said.
When asked by The Progress, a partner publication of The Courier Express, when was the last time law enforcement had shot and killed a suspect in Clearfield County, all of the officials present said it has been some time.
“The outcome is not what anyone wants,” Morris said. “The fortunate side of it though is no one else was injured.”
Kline said this incident is another demonstration of the strong working relationship between the state police and local law enforcement.
Sayers agreed and praised the police response.
“Clearfield County is blessed to have such a strong working relationship in and among the departments,” Sayers said.
Kline said the police officers used great restraint in not using deadly force at the onset of the traffic stop.
“And they only used deadly force when they were out of options,” Kline said.
Sayers said the investigation is ongoing but it appears it was the appropriate response to the situation.
Sayers said the police showed a lot of restraint during the incident despite multiple officers having a gun pointed at them. He said police tried for hours to resolve the situation peacefully before entering the building.
“For officers’ safety it was likely the correct result,” Sayers said. “But it is an ongoing investigation and I look forward to seeing that report before making a final determination.”
Morris said the state police are conducting the investigation and it is state police policy that the trooper who fired the shot to be placed on administrative leave until the investigation is completed.
Morris declined to go into Kanouff’s criminal background and did not know at the time of the press conference if Kanouff was permitted to have a firearm or to whom the firearm was registered.
Multiple agencies responded to the scene including the Clearfield Borough police, Lawrence Township police, Curwensville Borough police, multiple state troopers from several state police barracks, as well as personnel from several local fire departments and fire police organizations, and the Clearfield County District Attorney’s office, McGinnis said. Police officers were on scene all night and were still on scene late Thursday morning at the time of the press conference, according to McGinnis.