Dauphin County's coroner said autopsy results revealed that 23-year-old Donald Tolbert, backed into a cul-de-sac with officers' weapons firing at him, came to the end of the road and turned the gun on himself.
The violence came to an end Saturday afternoon when Tolbert sat inside of a stole car, used a stolen handgun to commit suicide according to Graham Hetrick.
"The bullet angle and artifacts around the wounds, like shooting and that...I can tell you that it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound," he said.
Despite an intense fire fight where witnesses say "multiple" gunshots were exchanged, the coroner said only one bullet was recovered from Tolbert's autopsy. Hetrick explained he discovered a large caliber bullet that was consistent with the gun found in his Tolbert's hand. Hetrick said several same-caliber bullets were found inside the vehicle that would match officers' weapons, but none entered Tolbert's body.
Tolbert ended his life after authorities said he spent Saturday on a wild crime spree.
Around 11 a.m., police said a woman told them Tolbert sexually assaulted her at a home in Duncannon. Around 1 p.m., police said 56-year-old Jennifer Zerbe-Hecker was fatally shot at a nearby intersection on Dellville Road. Her body was found in a field just beyond the intersection, according to authorities.
Police said Tolbert stole a car from a driveway on Jefferson Street in Duncannon, then drove to Howe Township where he stole several guns from inside a home. From there, officials said Tolbert robbed a convenience store in Dauphin Boro. A BOLO was sent out to surrounding municipalities.
Susquehanna Township Police spotted Tolbert around 3 p.m. Police said Tolbert sped away. The police pursuit ended at a dead-end cul-de-sac on the 3700 block of North Second Street in Susquehanna Township. Dauphin County District Attorney said Tolbert fired at least one shot from the vehicle toward surrounding officers. Authorities said officers fired their weapons around the same time Tolbert turned the gun on himself.
"This started as a sequence of bad behavior that just got worse," said Hetrick. "And there was not going to be a happy ending to this."
Despite the coroner ruling Tolbert's death a suicide, Marsico said his office will still investigate to determine if officers were justified in firing their weapons.
Court records obtained by abc27 show Tolbert had a troubled past.
The earliest records pointed to a conviction from a rash of burglaries and thefts in the early months of 2009. Court documents showed he was found guilty on 27 counts from that crime spree in Perry County.
On September 23, 2013, Tolbert was arrested and charged with terroristic threats, simple assault and harassment. According to Perry County District Attorney Chad Chenot, the victim in that case was Tolbert's ex-girlfriend. Tolbert was released from prison on October 1.
A few days later on October 5, Tolbert was charged with possession of marijuana in Dauphin County.
On October 17, Chenot said Tolbert was charged again for breaking into his ex-girlfriend's home and attacking her. Court documents showed Tolbert was facing charges of burglary, criminal trespassing, simple assault and harassment.
The October charges were dropped in late November when Chenot said the victim failed to appear in court. State Police in Newport refiled those October charges last Tuesday. The District Judge set Tolbert's bail at $50,000 unsecured bond, which he posted on Friday.
Chenot explained a judge typically examines two factors when setting bail: Is the person a flight risk, or a harm to others? Chenot said Tolbert was in court on Thursday for September's charges, and again appeared in court on Friday for October's charges.
Chenot confirmed that Tolbert did have an Protection From Abuse (PFA) order against him, filed by his ex-girlfriend.
Perry County attorney Jerry Philpott told abc27 that Tolbert sought legal advice from him on Friday shortly after he posted bail. Philpott said he was surprised to hear what Tolbert did the following day.
"My shocking feeling was I didn't notice anything about him at that time," he said. "This wouldn't make any sense."
Chenot said the woman Tolbert reportedly sexually assaulted on Saturday was the same woman involved in the September and October charges, his ex-girlfriend.
Marsico said Dauphin County is currently training district court judges and other officials to determine if a criminal offender may be a potential risk to the community. He said the "exciting" risk assessment program should be unveiled soon.
"You can never predict human behavior, but [we will have] an effective tool on assessing the risk that someone is to be a danger to the community," Marsico said.
Tuesday, August 19 2014 1:03 PM EDT2014-08-19 17:03:38 GMT
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