BRUSH VALLEY — Investigators have ruled out suicide in the shooting death last week of a former Indiana County sheriff’s deputy, and determined that Gary Wissinger, who brandished a gun at state police officers responding to a report of a domestic dispute at his home, was killed by multiple gunshots fired by police.
A death certificate issued by the Indiana County coroner’s office lists the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds and attributes the manner of death to homicide, meaning that Wissinger died at the hand of another person.
The justification for the shooting remains under review by the Indiana County District Attorney’s Office.
According to Chief Deputy Coroner Jerry Overman, Wissinger was shot at 12:01 a.m. July 8 and died a few minutes later.
But before he died, he retreated from view to a bedroom in his single-floor home just off Route 56, and was confirmed dead several hours later when a police special tactics team entered the home.
Details of the confrontation between Wissinger and the state police appear in a criminal complaint that police composed and filed at the Clymer district court while Wissinger’s fate was unknown. Troopers had charged him with aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person, but the complaint has since been withdrawn.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, Wissinger’s wife, Mary, told police that she had been away from home earlier on July 7 and returned about 2:30 p.m. and found him passed out from intoxication with his face in a plate of food.
She told police that after she woke him, Wissinger became agitated and aggressive in his behavior as the day wore on, complaining about his wife and daughter, and twice slapped his wife.
Mary Wissinger told troopers that she later locked herself in the spare bedroom and phoned for police while her husband screamed and slammed things in the house, according to court papers.
“She stated that she then tried to sneak out of the bedroom, but the defendant heard her, saying, ‘You sneaking out …? Go ahead and go!’” according to the complaint.
As she exited through a sliding glass door, a police officer in the back yard motioned her to stand behind a tree, and she told police she then heard shots fired and heard Wissinger calling her name.
Meanwhile, at the front of the house, troopers Chad Corbett and Gary Wilson had been trying to make contact with the Wissingers, according to the complaint, but first had no response when they knocked on the doors and windows.
The troopers reported that they heard Mary saying, “Help, help,” but could not see her in the house.
Then, investigators reported in the court papers, Corbett went to the front of the residence and saw Wissinger with something in his hand through the front door. Wissinger refused to drop the object, then opened the screen door and pointed a handgun at Corbett.
“Trooper Corbett drew his own weapon and shot toward the defendant 6 to 8 times, but it was unknown if he struck the defendant. The defendant made a noise such as ‘Ah’ or ‘Ouch’ and retreated back into the residence,” according to the affidavit of probable cause for the charges. “Trooper Corbett took cover.”
Trooper Deana Kirkland, a criminal investigator, drew up the charges; District Attorney Patrick Dougherty signed the complaint; and District Judge George Thachik, the judge on call at the time, signed the complaint to authorize Wissinger’s arrest.
Because of Wissinger’s death, the charges have formally been withdrawn.