PUNXSUTAWNEY — Tuesday, two men — both in wheelchairs — injured in a Sept. 22 shooting testified against the man who allegedly shot them in Punxsy’s Cranberry Alley, with District Judge Douglas Chambers finding a prima facia and setting the stage for trial in Common Pleas Court.
At the end of a continued preliminary hearing for the suspect, Christopher L. Thornhill, defense attorney Fred Hummel said one of the victims, Richard White Jr., testified that he never saw Thornhill with a weapon.
“For Richard White to be shot by Christopher Thornhill is an impossibility,” Hummel said, adding that while White also testified that he never saw Thornhill with a weapon, both Thornhill and the other victim, Shane Glatt, were standing in the headlights of the Dodge in which White was a passenger.
He also cited White’s pleading of the Fifth Amendment — which protects a witness from being forced to incriminate himself or herself — to several questions posed by the defense.
“Obviously, something is there that he has to hide,” Hummel said about White’s testimony.
Hummel asked that the charges — two counts each of attempted criminal homicide; aggravated assault; recklessly endangering another person; and weapons violations — against Thornhill be dismissed, while Assistant District Attorney Tabia Cole, representing the Commonwealth, said, “There were two victims and three people in the alley. Richard White said he heard the shots and recalls being shot. Shane Glatt said Christopher Thornhill pulled the gun, shot him, then shot Richard White.”
White was the first witness for the prosecution, and said the night of Sept. 22, 2011, Glatt picked him up near the Jefferson County Housing Authority High-Rise and the Punxsy Christian School, and they then proceeded down Cranberry Alley and met Thornhill, also known as “Black.”
While White was sitting in the passenger’s side of Glatt’s car, Glatt and Thornhill were talking outside in front of the vehicle, White said.
“I saw Shane Glatt and Black talking, and Black just started firing shots at Shane,” he said.
White said he did not see Thornhill with a weapon, and when Cole asked White how he knew they were gunshots, he replied, “Because I know a gunshot when I hear it. I’ve been around guns all my life. He fell down, and then I got shot.”
White said the conversation between Glatt and Thornhill seemed calm, and then “they got a little loud, and then the shots were fired.”
White said after he was struck, he sent a text message for help and saw Thornhill leave the scene in a Blazer.
When asked by Cole to testify about his injuries, White said he was struck in the back through his lung, broke two ribs, T-11 was hit and fragmented and hit his spinal column. He also testified that because of the events during the incident, he is now paralyzed.
Under cross-examination by Hummel, White confirmed he did not see a weapon. When Hummel asked if it was illogical to say Thornhill fired the shots, White replied, “I didn’t see a gun, but I saw him.”
When Hummel asked White about being shot in the back, White said he tried to leave the vehicle, “but couldn’t, because my legs wouldn’t move.”
Cole objected to Hummel’s question as to whether White knew what was in the vehicle. Chambers permitted Hummel to ask the question with regard to only weapons. Hummel then withdrew the question.
Hummel asked White about the first time he had seen Thornhill. Cole objected, asking the relevance of the question. Hummel said he was seeking clarification that White had met Thornhill pertaining to the events that led to the incident.
Hummel then asked White if he had been to 229 1/2 Pine St., near the location of the shooting. White replied, “I plead the Fifth.”
Hummel then asked White if he knew who resides at 229 1/2 Pine St., to which White said he did not know. He also said he did not know where Thornhill lived.
When asked by Chambers, White said the Fifth meant that one should not make any statements until court. Chambers corrected him, saying the Fifth Amendment means one may choose not testify to something that could be used against him or her in court, or testify to something that could incriminate a witness.
When Hummel asked White if there had been other nights he had been to 229 1/2 Pine St., White replied, “I’ll plead the Fifth on that.”
White also testified, as to Hummel’s questioning, that he did have personal possessions on him that night; that he was aware of the contents in the vehicle; and that he had a clear memory of that night’s events.
Hummel asked White if, prior to the incident, he had used alcohol, to which White replied no. Cole then objected, and Hummel said he was permitted to asked questions to speak to White’s capacity to testify about the incident.
When asked if he had used drugs, White pleaded the Fifth, which he also pleaded when asked if he had used heroin.
When asked if he had contact with Thornhill before the night of Sept. 22, Cole objected. Hummel said he was trying to form a basis of White’s identification of Thornhill.
White paused before answering that he had had personal contact with Thornhill, but that he didn’t remember the date.
The next witness for the prosecution was Glatt, who said prior to meeting White, he dropped off an individual called “Nain” at Advanced Auto Parts along West Mahoning Street.
When he met with Thornhill, Glatt said he was “sweating and shaking, and I asked him if he needed a ride.”
Glatt said he saw Thornhill’s alleged weapon, which he described as black, and was pointed directly at him.
Glatt said he suffered a shattered knee and femur, and the bullets struck his urethra, intestines and bladder. He also said his injuries were due to the events that occurred during the incident.
He said while he was lying on the ground after being shot, he saw Thornhill, near the driver’s side of the vehicle, shooting through the windshield at White.
Under cross-examination by Hummel, Glatt said after he dropped off Nain, he then texted him and made a loop through the Groundhog Plaza, where he saw White near County Market.
When asked to clarify, Glatt said he had purchased an item at Advance — for which he had a receipt bearing the time — and Nain had asked him to pick him up at “Black’s house” — 229 1/2 Pine St.
Cole objected to Hummel asking Glatt that he “just happened” to be at County Market around 9:30 p.m. Sept. 22. Hummel said he was just laying down the background of the incident. Glatt said when he picked up White, he was with a group of people.
Still under questioning by Hummel, Glatt testified that he had used neither alcohol nor drugs the night of the incident. He also said he recognized Thornhill’s vehicle and knew that he resided at 229 1/2 Pine St., from which Nain emerged to help after the shootings.
Also testifying was Punxsutawney Borough Police Officer Patrick Renwick, who is the affiant who filed the criminal complaint.