2009-06-18 / Police Reports

Wife Fought Off Penna. Man Killed In Shootout

By Michael Rubinkam ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

YATESVILLE, Pa. (AP) - Hobbled by a broken ankle, the estranged wife of a man killed in a shootout with Pennsylvania state troopers managed to fight him off as he threatened her with a gun before he kidnapped their 9-year-old son, the woman's friend said.

Daniel Autenrieth was supposed to leave the couple's three children at the curb during a custody exchange Sunday night. Instead, he carried their half-asleep 3-year-old to the door, and Susan Autenreith let him inside, her friend and family spokeswoman Torrie Clarke said.

After telling the children to go upstairs, Daniel pointed a gun at her and said, "If you don't talk to me, this isn't going to end well for anybody,'' Clarke told The Associated Press Friday in the first full account of what took place inside the home.

Susan Autenrieth has told friends that she believes her husband meant to kill his entire family.

Those details emerged on the same day that hundreds of police officers from 48 states gathered on a football field in northeastern Pennsylvania to mourn and honor Trooper Joshua Miller. He was killed in the shootout while helping to rescue the boy after police chased Daniel Autenrieth for 40 miles into the Pocono Mountains.

Susan Autenrieth, who had recently broken her ankle, screamed for the children to lock themselves in the upstairs bathroom and ran for the back door. Her husband tried to stop her from getting out, repeatedly slamming the door on her leg cast. But she fought him off, got outside and yelled for a neighbor to call 911.

"That moment is what saved her life,'' Clarke said.

Daniel Autenrieth took off with their son Trevor and led police on a wild chase before his car was forced off the road. Autenrieth opened fire as troopers rushed his car. He and Miller died in the gunbattle, and another trooper was wounded.

Miller and Trooper Robert Lombardo, 35, who was hit in the torso, were credited with distracting Autenrieth while other officers whisked the boy to safety. Trevor Autenrieth was unhurt, though his arm was hit by a shell casing, Clarke said.

Investigators looking into how Autenrieth, 31, got the 9 mm handgun have discovered surveillance footage from a sporting goods store that showed Autenrieth's girlfriend purchasing the gun in late May, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told the AP on Friday.

Autenrieth, who was not permitted to have a weapon under the terms of a protection-fromabuse order obtained by his wife, was with his girlfriend when she bought the gun, the official said.

At Miller's funeral Friday, officials heaped praise on the sixyear veteran.

"On Sunday, June 7, 2009, there would be no compromise of duty,'' state police commissioner Col. Frank Pawlowski said at the funeral, held on the football field at Pittston Area High School. "Evil was met with bold courage and an unrelenting will to do what must be done.''

Pawlowski posthumously awarded Miller the state police Medal of Honor, given to his sobbing widow, Angela, a state police communications operator.

The funeral procession was led by a kilt-wearing drum and bagpipe corps, followed by a hearse bearing the emblem of the United States Marine Corps and a riderless horse. The football field was a sea of dress uniforms in various shades of blue, brown, gray and black as officers stood at attention under mostly sunny skies.

Wyoming County Chief Detective David Ide recounted his friend's love of hunting - and his penchant for embellishment, like the time Miller claimed to have tracked a bear 30 miles into the woods and then wrestled it to the ground.

"If you would listen to Josh tell a story about his hunting adventures ... you would think you were listening to Davy Crockett or Daniel Boone,'' quipped Ide, who was chief of the Tunkhannock borough police when Miller joined the force as a rookie in 1999. "But Josh would be the first one to tell you that his wife, Angie, was the better hunter of the two of them.''

"We grieve because of the tragedy that has befallen you and your extended family,'' Gov. Ed Rendell told Miller's wife and three daughters, ages 16, 13 and 2.

After the funeral, Miller's body was taken to Laceyville for a private burial.

Susan Autenrieth, meanwhile, has entered counseling along with her three children. Her son hasn't spoken much about what happened to him Sunday night, Clarke said.

"In all honesty, Trevor just wants to be a normal little boy,'' Clarke said. "He wants to go back for the last days of school and see his friends; he wants to go to the home run derby.''

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