Police Officer John David Dryer
East Washington Borough Police Department, Pennsylvania
End of Watch: Monday, December 19, 2011
Tour of Duty: Not available
Badge Number: Not available
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Date of Incident: December 18, 2011
Weapon Used: Gun; Unknown type
Suspect Info: Shot and killed
Agency Contact Information
Chief of Police Mark Griffith
East Washington Borough Police Department
15 Thayer Street
Washington, PA 15301
Phone: (724) 225-3521
Police Officer John Dryer was shot and killed as he and another officer made a traffic stop on I-70, near East Beau Street, in East Washington at approximately 11:00 pm.
As Officer Dryer and a second officer waited for a tow truck to arrive the man exited his vehicle and opened fire. Officer Dryer was shot in the head and fatally wounded, and the second officer was shot in the hand. Officer Dryer was transported to Washington Hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 1:00 am.
The suspect fled the scene and barricaded himself in his home in Webster, Pennsylvania. After several hours the suspect exited his home and was shot and killed after engaging officers surrounding the house.
Officer Dryer is survived by his parents and his 17-year-old son.
State police troopers shot and killed a man sought in the slaying of one East Washington police officer and the wounding of another after he emerged armed from the rear of a surrounded house.
State police Capt. Brad Allen said Eli Franklin Myers, 58, came out of the back of a house on Shell Street in Webster about 9:30 a.m. and "engaged" before troopers fired.
People who live near the house, on Shell Street in Webster, reported hearing several gunshots before seeing four officers run into the house. Minutes later, the officers walked out casually, and KDKA-TV showed a helicopter shot of a body lying on the ground near the house.
Mr. Myers had been charged in a warrant with homicide, attempted homicide and two counts of aggravated assault after the shootings of two officers hours earlier, according to online court records.
East Washington police Officer John "David" Dryer, 46, was killed after a traffic-stop shooting along Interstates 70-79 late Sunday.
The shooting was reported shortly after 11 p.m. in Washington County about a half-mile east of the East Beau Street exit (Route 136).
The second shot officer, Robert V. Caldwell III, 46, is in fair condition at Allegheny General Hospital, a spokesman there said.
Both returned fire after being shot at, authorities said.
Officer Dryer initiated the stop at about 11 p.m., though it wasn’t immediately clear why. Officer Caldwell was working as back-up.
Officer Dryer, a part-time officer since August 2010, also worked as a veterinarian at Chestnut Veterinary Clinic in Washington. Officer Caldwell, on the force since February 2010, is a retired state police trooper.
The men were among the East Washington police department’s 15 part-time officers. The only full-time sworn cop is the chief.
It has been a tumultuous few months for the East Washington police department.
In October, its chief, Don Solomon, was indicted on federal corruption charges. The borough council fired him in November.
Suspect tracked quickly
Police spent much of the morning at the home on Shell Street in Webster, where where they believed the gunman had barricaded himself about midnight.
A Rostraver fire official said police fired tear gas into the house sometime overnight but there were no signs of movement inside.
John Watroba III, a Webster resident, said he tried to get to his home on Logan Street about 12:30 a.m., but police had the whole area sealed off.
Throughout the night, he was in contact via cell phone with his father, John Watroba Jr., who also lives in the neighborhood.
His father told him he could see a police sniper and also alerted him when police stormed the house.
The Belle Vernon Area School District closed for the day because of the standoff.
Mr. Watroba III said the suspected gunman had moved into the neighborhood just two years ago and wasn’t too friendly. He said he often saw Mr. Myers shoveling coal outside the house.
"He was not very talkative," Mr. Watroba said about Mr. Myers. "He was very backwards, impersonable."
Mr. Myers worked as a part-time officer for the West Newton Police Department in the late 1970’s, said Pamela Humenik, secretary treasurer of the borough.
Ms. Humenik said she was unsure when Mr. Myers retired from the department, but his name came up in borough council meeting minutes from that time, she said.
An officer and a veterinarian
In 2000, Officer Dryer was a 34-year-old veterinarian and wildlife conservation officer when he spoke with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about training bloodhounds.
"I’ve always wanted to be a police officer," Officer Dryer said then.
He had been a volunteer fireman for 14 years and an emergency medical technician for six years.
"I already have a lot of the training I need, and, frankly, I got tired of the sirens and flashing lights and being in the limelight," he said in the 2000 story. "I thought I’d like to try doing something one-on-one with my dog," he said.
Officer Dryer used $2,000 of his own money to train at the Indiana University Municipal Police Academy.
"I want to be taken seriously, and I’ve discovered that in order to do that, you need credentials and the proper training," he said.
Officer Dryer found motivation in his own home.
"My son Ben, who is 5, was very sick when he was born. In fact, a couple of times I thought I was going to lose him," he said. "I think this is why I want to search for missing people, particularly children. I feel so fortunate to have Ben. Even when he was sick, at least I knew where he was. I can’t imagine having a child disappear without a trace. Perhaps I can help to return a lost or missing child back home."
Gov. Tom Corbett today ordered all Pennsylvania flags in the Capitol Complex and at commonwealth facilities in Washington County to fly at half-staff to honor Officer Dryer.
The governor’s order will remain in effect until the date of Officer Dryer’s burial.
Officer Dryer was the oldest of three siblings and is survived by his parents and 17-year-old son, relatives said.
Recalling a life of service
Officer Dryer had worked as a deputy wildlife conservation officer for the state’s game commission since 1996, serving out of the south Washington district, said Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor for the office.
"Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family," Mr. Fazi said. "We’re all saddened here."
He also had worked as a part-time officer for several other Washington County police departments.
Ethan Ward, a district judge in western Washington County and former chief of the Donegal Township police department, hired Mr. Dryer to work for the small, rural department in the late 1990s.
The department on West Virginia’s border had little money, so Officer Dryer, who made a good living as a vet, used his own funds to buy field sobriety equipment, Judge Ward said. When the officers went on training, Officer Dryer paid for the gas, the judge said.
"People will never know how much Dave Dryer did because he wasn’t a self-promoter," Judge Ward said.
Officer Dryer was a man of many interests. In addition to working as a vet, police officer, game warden and volunteer firefighter, he owned a farm on the Donegal-East Finley border. While some officers want to work for big departments or get into detective work, Officer Dyer loved rural policing, Judge Ward said.
"What’s ironic about this is the reason Dave got into law enforcement is the reason Dave is dead today," Judge Ward said.