By Amy Worden and Allison Steele
Inquirer Staff Writers
Confronted by a gunman just blocks from the state Capitol on Tuesday night, a Democratic legislator from Northeastern Pennsylvania pulled his own weapon and traded fire with a would-be robber.
No one was hurt in the shootout, and police arrested four teens and charged them for their roles in the attempted street robbery.
But the firefight occurred on the last day of its legislative session, and underscored the difference between life and work in the golden dome and the gritty city that surrounds it.
Rep. Marty Flynn (Luzerne), a former corrections officer and a mixed martial-arts fighter who has co-sponsored gun safety seminars around the state, traded the gunfire with the robber after he and Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (Erie) were stopped on their way back to their Harrisburg residence.
The two alleged assailants were caught a few blocks away, and two additional teenagers were later arrested as accomplices, Harrisburg police said Wednesday.
Arrested were Jamani Ellison, 17; Jyair Leonard, 15; Derek Anderson, 17; and Zha-quan McGhee, 15. They were charged with attempted homicide, conspiracy, robbery, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and carrying a firearm without a license. They were charged as adults, police said, and officers recovered the gun they used.
Flynn and Bizzarro both declined to speak about the incident Wednesday, and their offices referred reporters to a statement released by the House Democratic Caucus.
"We are used to fighting for the people in our districts every day," Flynn said in the statement. "We certainly are going to stand up for ourselves and not become victims."
Flynn and Bizzarro were returning from a late dinner with four other lawmakers at a Second Street Restaurant about 11 p.m. when a male "pointed a gun first at Flynn and then at Bizzarro and demanded their wallets," according to the statement.
A second male in the meantime was across the street, shouting directions to the gunman.
Flynn drew his handgun and "exchanged shots" with the gunman. The lawmakers and the assailants then fled in opposite directions.
Bizzarro and Flynn made it back to the front of their residence and called 911. Flynn told an responding police officer that he had fired his gun and handed over his weapon.
"Bizzarro and Flynn expressed relief that nobody was struck by gunfire, and they thanked the Harrisburg police for the remarkably quick response," the caucus statement said.
A press conference is being scheduled on the attack Wednesday afternoon.
This was the second armed holdup near the Capitol in the last week.
It came as the state Senate was poised to debate a bill that passed the House that would make it harder for local municipalities such as Harrisburg to enact local gun laws. It would give standing to gun rights groups such as the NRA and force the municipalities to pay legal costs regardless of the outcome of a trial.
Last week, a woman was held up at gun point at the base of the Capitol steps shortly before 10 p.m.
It was not the first time a state lawmaker has fought back against assailants in altercations near the Capitol. Rep. Tim Solobay (D., Washington) fought off armed robbers who assaulted him outside the Capitol in 2010.