BELLEFONTE – Employees at St. Helena’s Church were back at work April 20 following a harrowing police incident the day before in which a suspect was shot and killed by police just outside the rectory, which also houses the parish offices.
St. Helena’s business manager, Paul Penna, said Thursday morning that employees were not ready to talk about the incident. After the shooting, police sealed off the parish complex and a section of Philadelphia Pike and surrounding streets, and employees were not able to leave the rectory until after 5:30 p.m., he said. That was more than three hours after the incident.
Penna was not in the office when the shooting occurred, but most of the employees were, as was the pastor, Father Stanley Russell.
The incident unfolded shortly after 2 p.m. on Wednesday. According to Officer JP Piser of the New Castle County police, officers attempted to pull over a vehicle in Wilmington in the vicinity of 24th and Market streets when the driver took off northbound. The pursuit ended outside the city after an accident on Philadelphia Pike at the intersection with Washington Street Extension.
The driver exited his vehicle and ran between St. Helena Church and the rectory, where he was shot and killed. On Thursday, New Castle County police identified the man as 21-year-old Keith Price. The department said officers fired at Price’s car after he drove toward them before he fled. After the accident on Philadelphia Pike, Price ran and hid in bushes next to St. Helena Church. He emerged pointing a weapon at officers, who responded by firing their service weapons, police said.
Two officers, whose names have not been released, were involved. One is an 18-year veteran, while the other has been on the force for three years. They have been placed on administrative leave, per department policy, police added.
Price was being sought on warrants for attempted murder stemming from a shooting in New Castle on April 9.
Dozens of county, state and city police officers joined colleagues from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice on the scene. Officers were on the scene into the late evening. Philadelphia Pike was closed for several hours, and the body of the person shot remained in the St. Helena driveway, blocked by a black tarp and shielded by a tree.
On Thursday, police markings in orange paint dotted the driveway at St. Helena’s, and the spot where the man died was covered with a drying agent.
Piser said no officers were injured, although some were taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.
The activity brought out several onlookers, including neighbors and employees of nearby businesses who heard the accident, the gunshots or both. Media helicopters hovered overhead, and reporters from several Delaware and Philadelphia media outlets set up on one corner across the street from St. Helena’s.
In addition to the church and rectory, St. Helena’s also has a former convent and school, a small gymnasium, a maintenance building and a building that once housed its preschool but is now home to the Brandywine Center for Autism.
Two mothers who were picking up their children on the afternoon of April 19 did not want to give their names, but they said the autism center had been on lockdown following the shooting.