SWIFTWATER, Pa.- About two dozen state troopers, other state police personnel and police officers from other departments lined busy Route 611 outside the Swiftwater state police barracks yesterday, standing at attention and saluting as a convoy of police cruisers and a police helicopter went past, escorting a hearse carrying the body of a slain trooper to a nearby funeral home.
The trooper, Joshua Miller, 34, was shot dead Sunday night along with a man who had kidnapped his own son before leading police on a 40-mile car chase that ended with a crash and an exchange of gunfire , authorities said yesterday.
The alleged kidnapper, Daniel Autenrieth, 31, died at the scene. Miller, a Marine veteran who joined the force in 2002, was shot in the neck and thigh and was taken to a hospital near Allentown, where he died of his wounds. A second trooper, Robert Lombardo, 35, was treated for a gunshot wound and was released, said State Police Commissioner Col. Frank Pawlowski.
"An individual embroiled in a domestic dispute for some reason chose to escalate the violence, and it ended with a hero losing his life, a wife losing her husband and three children losing a loving father," Pawlowski said.
After arguing with his estranged wife during a custody exchange, Autenrieth kidnapped his son at gunpoint, and that's when state police got involved, Pawlow-ski said.
The chase began outside Easton, about 50 miles north of Philadelphia, and ended just east of Tobyhanna, in the Pocono Mountains, when troopers purposely bumped Autenrieth's car, causing it to spin into a guard rail along state Route 611.
As troopers Miller and Lombardo rushed the driver's side, Autenrieth took out a handgun and fired three shots from close range, police said. Though both troopers were hit, they returned fire, striking Autenrieth eight times.
As the troopers and Autenrieth traded fire, two other officers plucked the boy from the front passenger seat of the car. The boy was not injured.
Miller was married with three children. Lombardo has been with the state police for five years. Both troopers are from Pittston.
Police were trying to figure out what set off Autenrieth, who was supposed to drop off his three children curbside at his estranged wife's townhouse Sunday night. Instead, he went into the house in Nazareth - ignoring a May 18 protection-from-abuse order that forbade it - and began arguing with her. *