Masontown, PA – The man who rushed to help an injured Masontown police sergeant during a shootout at the district courthouse on Sep. 19 was one of many defendants who were waiting for their hearings that day.
“I’m no angel, but I’ve never seen nothing like that,” said Sayles, who was at the courthouse to appear before District Judge Dan Shimshock for a drug offense.
Dowdell was also scheduled to appear in court that day on charges of strangulation, aggravated assault, terror threats, and simple assault in a domestic incident that occurred “a few weeks ago,” Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower told reporters at a press conference on Sep. 19, according to KDKA.
The gunman also had a protection order out against him at the time of the incident, the district attorney said.
Sayles told police that he heard a gunshot and turned and saw a man and woman, and said it appeared that Dowdell’s gun had jammed.
“He was trying to get it to shoot again and it wouldn’t shoot. So when he got it to shoot again, I took cover beside the magistrate [building],” Sayles told KDKA.
Bower said the gunman walked into the building, where as many as 40 people were waiting for appearances before the magistrate, with a pistol in his hand.
He said Masontown Police Sergeant Scott Miller engaged the shooter, at which time the sergeant was shot in the hand.
“I saw the cop, he was taking cover behind the vehicle and he said, ‘Stay back,’ but he was shot,” Sayles told KDKA. “I ran over to him, took my shirt off, my tank top first, and wrapped it around his hand. But, he was still bleeding so profusely that I took my other shirt off and wrapped it around his hand and then, I took my belt off and wrapped it around his wrist.”
According to Sayles, Sgt. Miller told him to run, but he refused to leave the sergeant alone, WTAE reported.
“Scotty Miller is a good cop,” Sayles told him. “I know him, and I knew he had a past history with his heart, so that was the first thing I thought when I saw him bleeding.”
While that was happening, Dowdell was shooting his way through the lobby of the municipal building.
“The shooter had shot the windows out as I was running to the cop, he was shooting through the glass doors,” Sayles said. “Once he went in, I heard at least 10 shots.”
That’s when German Township Police Chief Dave Hromada, Officer Tom O’Barto, and another officer from their department ran to help. The unnamed officer fatally shot the gunman.
There are witness reports that the woman being chased was the female victim. There are also witness reports that she said the shooter was her husband.
“I ran back down the hallway… I believe there was some officers in there going after the shooter at the time,” Todd Endsley told KDKA. “[I] realized my mom was in the room to my left with three other people and then a woman was laying there on the floor. She just had a small rag at the time, so she was still bleeding.”
He said he took off his belt and used it as a tourniquet on the wounded woman.
“I didn’t even know it was her husband until I was sitting there holding her arm and [I asked what had happened] and she was like ‘it was my husband. This isn’t the first time he tried to kill me,’” Endsley recounted.
The gunman shot four people, including Sgt. Miller, before his rampage was stopped, according to the Herald Standard.
The victims were taken to Ruby Memorial Hospital, where they were treated and later released, according to KDKA.
Sgt. Miller is doing well, but will have to undergo surgery on Monday to amputate a finger, WTAE reported.
Sayles said he doesn’t think of himself as a hero for his role in helping the injured sergeant, and said he only did what he felt should have been done during the chaotic situation.
“I don’t know about the heroic stuff,” he told WTAE. “That’s just who I am.”