By MATT ROURKE and TASSANEE VEJPONGSA Associated Press
Six members of a family — including three children — are feared dead, an official said Thursday, from a fire at a house in suburban Philadelphia that went down in flames as two police officers who responded to the scene were shot and injured.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer told reporters that a human torso and a rifle were recovered from the home in East Lansdowne, but he cautioned the probe is in its early stages.
Stollsteimer said the shooter may have been inside the house when it was destroyed by fire Wednesday afternoon. He said the family residing there has the surname of Le but otherwise did not release names.
The fire did so much damage it may not be possible to ever determine how it started or who did the shooting, Stollsteimer said.
“If we ever determine it, it won’t be any time soon,” Stollsteimer said outside a hospital where he was preparing for the release of one of the wounded officers.
Lansdowne Officer David Schiazza, 54, was injured in the leg and expected to be released Thursday. East Lansdowne Officer John Meehan, 44, required lengthy surgery to his arm and could be released by Friday, Stollsteimer said. Both have more than two decades with their respective departments.
Firefighters remained on the scene Thursday as wisps of smoke were visible from the charred remains of the house. Heavy machinery moved into the neighborhood as investigators were examining the home.
An excavator was being used to tear down the walls left standing after the fire gutted the building, scooping debris to be sifted by investigators. A medical examiner’s office vehicle was there.
Officers responded to the house in East Lansdowne around 3:45 p.m. after a 911 call reporting that an 11-year-old girl had been shot. Stollsteimer said he was not sure who called 911.
They immediately came under fire.
Officers from Upper Darby saved their lives by dragging them out of danger, he said.
Authorities believe the home was set on fire by someone inside. Intense flames were initially seen rising from the roof and top floor of the three-story home before spreading to the lower levels, largely gutting the structure.
There was no more information about the child who was reported wounded.
Upper Darby Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt described a volatile and dangerous scene when officers from his department responded to the home and were able to rescue the two wounded officers.
“All officers that were on scene initially were taking on fire, and then when they removed themselves from it, there was no more gunfire at that point,” Bernhardt said.
East Lansdowne is about 5 miles west of Center City Philadelphia.
Associated Press reporter Mark Scolforo contributed from Harrisburg. Bruce Shipkowski reported from Toms River, New Jersey.