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Police still sorting out Hatboro shooting

The day after a Hatboro councilman chased and shot an alleged bank robber, police and prosecutors were still sorting out whether his actions were justified or a crime.

The day after a Hatboro councilman chased and shot an alleged bank robber, police and prosecutors were still sorting out whether his actions were justified or a crime.

The wounded suspect, Kevin Phillip-Johnson Way, was transferred from Abington Memorial Hospital to the Montgomery County prison, where he will await trial on robbery, theft, and other charges, officials said. But the man who chased him for a quarter-mile and then shot him in an arm and a hand was still out of sight.

Joan Forgeng, wife of Councilman George Forgeng, answered the door Thursday morning at the couple's house on Lehman Avenue, blocks from the Hatboro TD Bank branch that was robbed and in a quiet neighborhood of single-family homes.

On her front porch, she said she and her husband would not speak about the incident as police and prosecutors continue their investigation. She said her husband had not hired an attorney.

Though it appears George Forgeng was trying to do a good deed, the circumstances surrounding the shooting are "highly unusual," said David Zellis, a former Bucks County prosecutor and current defense attorney.

In many cases when a shooting might be justified by self-defense, Zellis said, the shooter is approached by someone they believe is trying to harm them.

But police said Forgeng, 60, did not witness the bank robbery. He told investigators he began chasing Way after he saw a dye pack explode outside the bank and assumed Way had just robbed it.

"If it turns out that he wasn't sure if it was the robber . . . he had no reason to believe the person was armed, and there were no movements that appeared that he was armed . . . then the question is, can he shoot somebody under those circumstances?" Zellis said.

Zellis said charges against Forgeng could include assault or reckless endangerment.

"At the same time, a lot of people would argue that this is a good Samaritan trying to protect the community from a robber," Zellis said.

Police said Forgeng chased Way along a busy road, through a neighborhood, and across SEPTA tracks while yelling for bystanders to call 911. The pursuit ended when Forgeng shot Way in a parking lot.

Forgeng has a permit to carry a concealed weapon and told police he fired his gun after Way said, "Go ahead and shoot me," and moved toward him.

First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele said his office would review whether it was reasonable for Forgeng to believe that Way was armed, that he was in danger, and that Way had robbed the bank.

Way passed the bank teller a note claiming he was armed during the robbery, Steele said, but he was unarmed when arrested.

By Thursday morning, the borough was quiet, and the bank had reopened. At several businesses along York Road, employees said they had not seen the chase.

The Rev. Steven McComas was in his office at Lehman Church across from the bank Wednesday morning but did not learn of the events until afterward.

He said the shooting was cause for concern because the church operates a preschool. "And I don't like the idea of guns being fired," he said.

The bank has been robbed several times in the four years since McComas became pastor at the United Methodist church.

Otherwise, "it's a really nice community, very quiet," he said.

Citing the investigation, Forgeng's fellow borough council members declined to comment Thursday.

"I can say that I am thankful that the suspect was quickly captured, and glad that no innocent bystanders were injured during the robbery or ensuing pursuit," Council President Bill Tompkins wrote in an e-mail.

Forgeng teaches technology education and industrial arts at Harry S. Truman High School in Levittown.

He was appointed to the all-Republican borough council this year and is running for election in November. At the time of his appointment in May, Forgeng told the Doylestown Intelligencer that he had lived in Hatboro for 37 years and had four grown children.

"I think [governing] is about common sense," he told the newspaper. "I want to make good decisions and help the people here."

610-313-8116 @Lmccrystal