LAKE GEORGE -- A Lake George man with a long history of violence shot two police officers early Tuesday, prompting the officers to return fire and kill him after a wild car chase from Warrensburg to Lake George.
The bullet-proof vest of one officer, Warren County sheriff's Sgt. Greg Riley, saved him from injury, while the other officer, sheriff's Sgt. Ralph Bartlett, suffered an abdominal injury that required 18 stitches, authorities said.
The shooter, Patrick E. Penders, 59, of Bloody Pond Road, was being sought by police after he fired five shots from a handgun into the side door of his ex-girlfriend's home on Monte Vista Drive in Warrensburg late Monday night.
That started a wild car chase that ended with Penders dying in a hail of bullets near the intersection of routes 9 and 9N after he stopped his Dodge sport-utility vehicle, got out and began firing a large-caliber handgun at the officers who were pursuing him.
Several officers returned fire, and Penders suffered at least one serious head injury. He was pronounced dead at the scene, Warren County Sheriff Bud York said.
Bartlett was treated at Glens Falls Hospital and released, while Riley did not require hospital treatment.
Officials said it appears the gunshot that injured Bartlett hit the canister of pepper spray attached to his belt, causing it to explode. It was unclear if the bullet or shrapnel from the canister caused his injury, officials said
York said it was not known when Bartlett would return to work, but that he was doing well later Tuesday. Bartlett was on administrative leave as of Tuesday afternoon.
"It's a very traumatic experience. We want to make sure physically and emotionally he's OK," York said of Bartlett.
Riley was hit in the chest, but it was unclear if he remained on duty later Tuesday. Both officers work the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift.
Penders is known to police. He had been to state prison twice for violent incidents, including a 1993 standoff during which he fired gunshots at state troopers in Fort Ann.
He served nearly six years in prison in that case, and remained out of serious trouble until late Monday.
Police gave the following account of the shootout that began late Monday and ended just after 12 a.m. Tuesday:
Warren County's emergency dispatch center received a 911 call at 11:38 p.m., reporting gunshots fired through a side door at 27 Monte Vista Dr. in Warrensburg. No one was injured, and police were told to watch for an older-model gray sport-utility vehicle.
Warren County sheriff's officers and state troopers responded, and the SUV was spotted heading south on Schroon River Road. One of the officers set up "Stop Sticks," spike-tipped mats designed to deflate car tires, and the SUV ran over them, causing one tire to deflate.
The driver kept going though, making his way on Route 9 at what York termed "low" speeds. More Stop Sticks were set up on Canada Street in the village of Lake George, and two more of the SUV's tires were flattened.
The driver kept going, eventually stopping just after he turned right from Route 9 to Route 9N, headed toward Lake Luzerne.
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It was then that he got out of the SUV, pointed a large-caliber revolver at the pursuing officers and began firing. At least two sheriff's officers and three troopers were in vehicles that stopped behind Penders' vehicle, and they returned fire from about 30 feet away.
One of the sheriff's officers fired an M-4 assault rifle that patrol cars carry, authorities said.
York said it was unclear who shot Penders or how many times he was hit. That will be determined during an autopsy that was planned for late Tuesday at Albany Medical Center.
An acquaintance of Penders' said he was drunk Monday night, and police said toxicology tests will be performed to determine whether he was intoxicated.
York said it appeared the officers acted appropriately, but the Sheriff's Office and State Police were continuing to investigate the events later Tuesday.
"They only fired after they were shot at. ... He was aiming at them," York said. "All initial appearances are that there was nothing that was done that was not according to procedure."
Speaking at a Tuesday morning press conference that was attended by several members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, York said there was no indication that Penders left behind any notes or made any statements to police during the chase or shooting.
Holes in the door
The chase started after Penders drove to the 27 Monte Vista Drive, Warrensburg home of his ex-girlfriend, Rochelle Gussow, shortly after 11 p.m. Monday. Monte Vista Drive is a small dead-end road in the north end of town with fewer than a dozen homes.
Jim Wells, who lives next door to Gussow, said he saw an SUV drive down the road -- "like he was creeping" -- and stop at Gussow's home.
Minutes later he heard a "boom" that he said he thought came from a shotgun, then four more noises he thought were gunshots as well. Five minutes or so later, the SUV slowly left.
"He didn't leave in a hurry," Wells said.
Wells said he went next door and found Gussow and her daughter uninjured, with five holes in a side door to their home. Some of the shots went into the floor of the home, he said.
Police said a large-caliber handgun, possibly a .357-caliber Magnum, was used to shoot the home.
"It was quite a shock," said Wells' mother, Sue Wells. "Nothing like that goes on up here."
Gussow works at the Rite-Aid store in Lake George, less than a mile from Penders' home. He met her at the store and they began dating last summer, friends said.
Wells said he did not know Penders and had not known him to have caused any trouble at Gussow's home before Monday night.
Yellow police "crime scene" tape blocked the driveway to the home through Tuesday morning, and a sheriff's officer was guarding it.
A young woman who answered the door at Gussow's home later Tuesday said Gussow did not want to discuss the attack.