Authorities say Indiana County gun dealer's shooting death may be part of an extortion plot
January 2, 2014 11:11 PM
Darrell Sapp / Post-Gazette
Janet Petro, wife of shooting victim Frank Petro, makes a statement at the entrance of the Indiana County Courthouse on Thursday.
Darrell Sapp / Post-Gazette
State Trooper Mark McMahan and Indiana County district attorney Pat Dougherty are seen here at the end of a news conference on the fatal shooting of Frank Petro in Conemaugh. Jack Oliver Edmundson Jr., 43, has been charged and is under guard at UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh.
By Liz Navratil / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
INDIANA, Pa. -- In the two months before a Saltsburg man was charged with killing a gun shop owner inside his store on New Year's Eve, he extorted the victim for about $120,000 in an alleged scheme authorities are still unraveling, officials said Thursday.
Jack Edmundson, 43, a former police officer and onetime confidential informant, approached gun shop owner Frank Petro and his brother William Petro in October, claiming to be an undercover officer investigating illegal lottery ticket sales, state police said.
Mr. Edmundson offered to "make the case go away" if Frank Petro stopped selling tickets, police said.
The tickets appeared at first glance to be legal, but Indiana County investigators are working to trace their roots, District Attorney Patrick Dougherty said at a news conference. He did not go into detail about how the ticket sales worked.
Regardless, Frank Petro paid Mr. Edmundson twice in the months before his death -- one payment of between $44,000 and $47,000 and another of $87,000 -- according to statements his brother provided to police.
Frank Petro grew suspicious in November, when Mr. Edmundson was arrested for impersonating an officer after, state police said, he tightly handcuffed a boy who threw corn kernels at the car he was riding in. Frank Petro then contacted an attorney.
Mr. Edmundson and Frank Petro had one final encounter on New Year's Eve.
Surveillance video shows that Mr. Edmundson walked into Frank's Gun Shop & Taxidermy in the village of Tunnelton about 1:30 p.m. and removed a pistol from behind the counter, police said. Seconds later, Frank Petro emerged from a back room and Mr. Edmundson pointed the pistol at him and fired, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Mr. Edmundson, police said, began pouring black gun powder onto the floor and spraying what appeared to an accelerant out of a plastic bottle.
Frank Petro got up and struggled with Mr. Edmundson for "several minutes" before Mr. Edmundson shot him at least twice in the head, police said. At some point, Mr. Edmundson was shot in the right thigh.
Mr. Edmundson called 911 claiming self-defense and gave a statement that appears to be inaccurate, said the district attorney, who did not go into further detail. Medics took Mr. Edmundson to UPMC Presbyterian, where he remained Thursday while he recovers and awaits arraignment on charges of homicide, aggravated assault and attempted arson.
State police and representatives from the district attorney's office continue to investigate, acknowledging that many questions linger.
Neither the district attorney's office nor the state police in Indiana were investigating Frank Petro's ticket sales at the time of his death, Mr. Dougherty said. Mr. Edmundson previously worked for the state police as a confidential informant but had been "deactivated" and never supplied them with any information about Frank Petro, the DA said.
"We believe that Edmundson had targeted Mr. Petro and was using the information he obtained on his own to extort money from Mr. Petro," Mr. Dougherty said.
Mr. Edmundson worked years ago as a police officer in Quarryville, a small town about 20 minutes south of the city of Lancaster, Pa. A check Thursday with the Municipal Police Officers' Education & Training Commission, an arm of the state police, indicated that Mr. Edmundson is not currently certified as an officer.
While Mr. Edmundson lived in Lancaster County, he worked for a time during the 1990s on a county drug enforcement task force. He was ordered to spend time in the county prison -- and then released on parole -- after he was found guilty of stealing from people he encountered during drug investigations in 1996.
In one case, according to an affidavit of probable cause, Mr. Edmundson was accused of making $4.80 in calls using a calling card belonging to a man he arrested on drug trafficking charges.
In another case, according to an affidavit, Mr. Edmundson stole 20 platinum Canadian Maple Leaf coins from a safe deposit box belonging to a man he searched in connection with a drug trafficking investigation.
Liz Navratil: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. Jonathan D. Silver contributed. First Published January 2, 2014 2:23 PM
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