Officers Rescue Boy During Gunbattle

Police rescued a 9-year-old boy who had been kidnapped by his father as a fatal gun battle broke out between the man and state troopers.

After arguing with his estranged wife during a custody exchange, Daniel Autenrieth kidnapped his son at gunpoint, then led police on a 40-mile high-speed chase that ended with a crash and an exchange of gunfire, state police commissioner Col. Frank Pawlowski said. Autenrieth and a state trooper were killed.

"I can't begin to describe the hurt and sorrow being experienced by the Pennsylvania state police," Pawlowski told a somber news conference at the Swiftwater barracks, the trooper's home base. "What happened yesterday is nothing short of an American tragedy."

The chase began outside Easton Sunday night  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.

Troopers Joshua Miller, 34, and Robert Lombardo, 35, then 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 escaped injury.

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 rushed to a hospital near Allentown, where he died of his wounds. Lombardo, who has been with the state police for five years, was treated for a gunshot wound and then released. 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.

A neighbor, Arlene Benginia, said she heard the couple screaming at each other. By the time she got outside to investigate, police had arrived but Autenrieth and his son were gone.

"He has my son! He has a gun!" screamed the wife, Susan Autenrieth, according to Benginia.

Susan Autenrieth's next-door neighbor, Rachel Lilly, said she met Daniel Autenrieth once, when her children and his children played together at a community park. She said he seemed normal.

"I feel so bad for all the children of the families involved, especially the children of the trooper," Lilly said. Susan Autenrieth, she said, is "a sweet lady who doesn't deserve this."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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