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Lengthy SWAT Situation Ends After 19 Hours

ELLSWORTH (KDKA) -- A lengthy SWAT situation in Washington County is finally over after 19 hours and the suspect is in police custody.

Police say Joe Cunningham of Texas barricaded himself inside the house after barging in on his estranged wife and her boyfriend -- and eventually got into a shootout with the boyfriend.

At some point though, the wife and boyfriend were able to escape the house, but Cunningham allegedly also took a 15-year-old hostage at another point during the ordeal. Police say she was able to gain control of his weapons and escape.

Police say Cunningham has lived in Ellsworth for four years. He lived separately from his estranged wife and is believed to work for the Marcellus Shale industry.

The situation kept neighbors out of their homes into the overnight hours in Washington County.

A caravan of Pennsylvania State Police SWAT Team equipment went up Oak Street in Ellsworth Friday evening. Only police vehicles were allowed past the road blocks.

Three streets were shut down.

Even people who live in the neighborhood were allowed to go home.

"My wife, and two of my kids and she's got her nephew's baby up there," said Mark Heirendt, of Ellsworth. "They're fine; I've been talking to them. They just said they have to stay in the house."

The fire chief says he understands people's frustrations.

"They're trying to get home from work or wherever they were at and they can't get home," said Chief Craig Pysh, of the Ellsworth Volunteer Fire Department.

However, officials say they don't want anyone in the area.

"The state police want nobody up Oak Street," Chief Pysh said.

Police were called around 4:30 p.m. Friday after what 911 describes as a domestic situation. Hours later, more and more police vehicles were arriving at the scene.

It's making neighbors nervous.

"Now it's starting to make me wonder if they should get out," said Heirendt. "Because if it's taking this long, I don't think it's an easy situation."

As for the police power being brought in, the Chief Pysh says, "It's something that in 19 years of being in the fire department that I've never seen in Ellsworth."

Students at a nearby school were evacuated by police escort earlier in the day. They were taken to a nearby restaurant where they're parents could pick them up.

Finally, late Saturday morning, police were able to get Cunningham from the house and he was arrested. Details of how police were able to get to him are still not available.

Cunningham was taken to the hospital and treated for a non-life threatening gunshot wound he suffered during his encounter with his estranged wife's boyfriend.

He faces a long list of charges and is expected to appear before a magistrate later today.

Stay with KDKA for the latest on this developing story.

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