Middletown- Surrender ends police standoff

Press~Journal Photos/Debra Schell - Police closed Race Street Tuesday morning while they negotiated with a man who threatened to shoot himself.

A Middletown resident with guns in his home threatened suicide, prompting police to lock down his Race Street neighborhood Tuesday morning. A police negotiator convinced the man to give up, ending a 3-hour stalemate.

By Debra Schell, Jim Lewis and Garry Lenton
Press And Journal Staff

A Middletown man who threatened to shoot himself kept police and a SWAT team at bay at his Race Street home for nearly three hours on Tuesday, Oct. 18 before surrendering, police said.
Greg M. Sorce, 36, of the first block of North Race Street, left his red brick home on a quiet, oak-lined street of porch chairs, awnings and potted mums around 10 a.m., ending the three-hour standoff.
Sorce, a civil engineer with the state Department of Environmental Protection, was taken to Harrisburg Hospital for a mental health evaluation, said Police Chief Keith Reismiller.
There were no injuries, and no one was shot, Reismiller said. As of presstime, no charges had been filed.
“The negotiators did a great job of getting him out of the house safe,’’ said Reismiller.
Fink Elementary School, located up the street, was locked down. A parent who lives nearby, said school buses en route to the school were re-routed to Reid Elementary as a precaution.
Seven Sorrows School a few blocks up from Sorce’s home, remained in operation throughout the incident, Principal Loretta Miller said.
Miller said she learned of the incident from one of the school’s bus drivers, not police.
But she stressed that the school’s children were safe.
“Our school is always locked to the outside,” she said. “We have a new security system and cameras around the school, too.”
A domestic dispute at Sorce’s home led to a call to police around 6:53 a.m. from a woman who lived there, Reismiller said. Sorce was threatening to kill himself, the woman told police.
“About 10 minutes after the initial call, the woman was taken to safety and provided police with more information,” Reismiller said.
Sorce owned several long guns and handguns, which will be collected as evidence and removed from the home before Sorce can return, said Reismiller.
Police and members of the Dauphin County Emergency Response Team arrived soon after, evacuating two of Sorce’s neighbors from their homes and signaling neighbors who peeked out of their doors to get back into their homes.
Kelli Michal, who lives a few blocks away on Emaus Street, said the incident began quietly.
“We didn’t hear any sirens or anything, but we walked outside and the police SUV was blocking Race Street,” she said.
Neighbors said they were surprised that the quiet of their block was shattered by a police standoff.
Sorce and his wife were friendly, the kind of couple that would sit on their front porch, wave and exchange pleasantries as you walked by their house, neighbors said.
“They were quiet, they mowed their grass, they were nice neighbors as far as I know,’’ said one neighbor, who asked not to be identified. If Greg Sorce was on his porch when she walked by with her dog, they would chat good-naturedly about whether the ice cream stand around the corner was open yet that morning.
On Tuesday, police surrounded Sorce’s home and shooed the neighbor back into her house when she peeked out her door.
“We had no clue what was happening,’’ she said. “It was excitement in the neighborhood, and I’m glad it’s over.’’
Sorce and his wife would help shovel snow from sidewalks across the street from their house, said another neighbor, who asked that he not be identified. They often would sit on the front porch of their house, a tidy red brick building fronted by two tall oaks that grew along the sidewalk.
“I would never have suspected anything like this,’’ he said. “I never heard them argue, never saw any hostility.’’

Debra Schell: 717-944-4628, or dschell@pressandjournal.com

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