Suspect Wounded, Facing Charges In 19-Hour Ellsworth Standoff
ELLSWORTH (KDKA) — A Texas native is facing a long list of charges following a 19-hour standoff with police and SWAT teams at a home in Washington County.
State police say the standoff started Friday around 4:30 p.m.
Joe Carl Cunningham, 48, forced his way into to a house on Oak Street in Ellsworth with a gun, and threatened his ex-girlfriend, her new boyfriend and a 15-year-old girl.
Police say Cunningham went back to his car to get a shotgun. By then, the boyfriend found his gun and shots were fired.
“They were basically not allowing him back into the house at that point, saying they were going to lock the door, not let him in, and at that point, gunfire was exchanged between the two people,” said Trooper Stefani Plume, of the Pennsylvania State Police.
Authorities say Cunningham suffered a minor bullet wound, and the ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend escaped.
By then, authorities were called to the scene where Cunningham was alone inside with the 15-year-old girl.
State police say the teen was held hostage during the 19-hour ordeal, but somehow managed to get control of Cunningham’s guns and escaped from the residence, unharmed.
The neighborhood was shut off to traffic as police tried to convince Cunningham to surrender peacefully.
“With the help of our CERT team, we had the help of the Pittsburgh SWAT team that responded,” Trooper Plume said. “We do our best that we can to try to talk him willingly into coming out, so there are no further injuries.”
Windows in the home were knocked out, but after hours of unsuccessful negotiations, police used force to end the standoff.
“In this case, we decided to make entry into the house, feeling that based on our conversations with him, it was safe enough to do so, and we decided to take him into custody,” said Trooper Plume.
Cunningham moved to the Pittsburgh area four years ago from Texas to work in the natural gas industry.
He’s charged with two counts each of aggravated assault, burglary, unlawful restraint, recklessly endangering another person and terroristic threats.