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Newry standoff ends safely

Concerted effort ends standoff

February 11, 2013
By Russ O’Reilly (roreilly@altoonamirror.com) , The Altoona Mirror

NEWRY-A domestic dispute and a gun shot spiraled to nine-hour standoff between members of six police departments and a man in a home with access to high-powered hunting rifles and hand guns.

It ended at 10:30 a.m. Sunday with a ground-shaking flash grenade explosion set off by Hollidaysburg State Police Special Emergency Response Team that drew the accused, Mark Wendt, 52, out of his home to surrender.

No injuries were inflicted by Wendt or by police, whom Wendt's only next-door neighbor praised.

"I'm thankful it turned out the way it did. I was afraid of hearing gunfire. Police did a real good job, I'd say," Helen Street resident Bernard Lanzendorfer said.

About ten minutes before police arrived at 1:30 a.m., Wendt fired a shot through an exterior wall of his wife's Patrick Lane home, less than a mile away from his Helen Street home off Catfish Road.

Wendt waited inside the home at Patrick Lane for his wife, Vicki Wendt, brother-in-law Joshua Claar and another female, Sommer Lee, to arrive, said Hollidaysburg State Police Trooper Craig Grassmyer.

Wendt argued with them, walked outside the house, then turned around and shot through an exterior wall of the home, Grassmyer said. But the three occupants saw him preparing to shoot and ran to safety in a room away from the door, he said.

Wendt then fled to his Helen Street home, where the standoff began. State police and municipal officers from Blair Township, Hollidaysburg Borough, Allegheny Township, Duncansville Borough and Greenfield Township responded.

About 20 or more police vehicles lined Catfish road, which was entirely blocked off from Dunnings Highway to Charger Highway.

The state police Special Emergency Response Team and the Logan Township SWAT team vehicles served as a command center under the Interstate Route 99 bridge. SERT team members were in full gear, including shields and helmets.

Early in the standoff, state police reached Wendt by phone, but Wendt disconnected his line, Grassmyer said. Wendt failed to answer police at his door as well.

Wendt had several weapons at his disposal-"high powered hunting rifles and hand guns," Grassmyer said.

Police surrounded Wendt's home from 1:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. prior to the state police SERT team setting off a a flash grenade that caused a percussion explosion that "shook the ground" Lanzendorfer said, and compelled Wendt to come out of his home to surrender.

"There was no damage done. No injury occurred," Grassmyer said.

Lanzendorfer said he has a friendly relationship with Wendt.

He said Wendt and his wife, together for at least 20 years, began living in separate homes recently.

During the standoff, Lanzendorfer said he called a mutual friend who was closer to Wendt to urge him to turn himself in, but Wendt did not answer.

Wendt was charged with burglary, aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and discharge of a firearm into an occupied structure. He was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Todd F. Kelly and lodged in the Blair County Prison in lieu of $200,000 straight cash bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 19 before Magisterial District Judge Paula Aigner.

 
 
 

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