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Police Chief Sitoski discusses recent Wawa shootings


Special to The Press

During his regular police report at the May 6 Upper Macungie supervisors’ meeting, Police Chief Michael Sitoski commented briefly on the April 21 shootings at the Wawa, Schantz Road and Route 100.

“I want to start by asking: Please keep Ramon Ramirez’s family in your thoughts, prayers, in your heart, during this unimaginable time and tragic event,” Sitoski said.

According to information released by Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin in an April 28 news release, a man identified as Za Uk Lian of South Whitehall arrived at the Wawa and began shooting around 4:48 a.m.

Lian allegedly shot the driver of a parked Jeep without any interaction between them, leaving the man in critical condition, and then shot and killed Ramon Ramirez, 31, of Allentown, as the latter was pumping gas into his truck tractor.

After accosting several other individuals at the Wawa and demanding the keys to another driver’s vehicle, Lian fled on foot as officers arrived, proceeding about a quarter-mile away and fatally shooting himself in a wooded area.

Martin also said Lian was involved in an incident earlier that same morning in which he had shot at a female driver’s vehicle on Route 22.

The woman, who was uninjured, drove to the Wawa and departed shortly before the shootings occurred.

She found what appeared to be damage from a gunshot to her vehicle and reported it to Pennsylvania State Police, who connected the two incidents.

Speaking of the incident, Sitoski said that morning was “chaos,” adding Upper Macungie officers responded “within a minute” to the scene.

“I truly believe their quick response prevented any further tragedy,” he said. “We don’t know where that morning would have led the shooter. We likely will never know.

“There’s a lot of unsolved answers to this puzzle.”

Sitoski said an active investigation is ongoing and he could not divulge any additional information other than what has already been published.

Regarding the local police response, Sitoski said two Upper Macungie Township police officers had responded to the scene, along with two Pennsylvania State Police Troopers from Troop M, Fogelsville, barracks, next to the township municipal building.

Sitoski said one officer had been at the Wawa just 15 minutes before the shooting.

“Again, you never know what would have happened if they had encountered each other at that time,” he said. “This is one of the things you hear where police officers go toward the gunshots ... that is exactly 100 percent what they did that morning.”

He was asked about the second shooting victim by Supervisor Sean Gill.

Sitoski replied the man remains in critical condition, and he again asked people keep him and Ramirez’s family “in your thoughts and in your heart.”

Sitoski also thanked the township, other police departments and members of the public for their support of the emergency services personnel who responded that morning.

“These events, it truly is a team effort, and you can’t get through it without that team,” he said.

Gill extended thanks to Martin’s office.

Chairman James Brunell asked that the township’s support and gratitude be extended to the department.

In other police-related business that evening, board members also authorized the execution of a memorandum of understanding for the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Warrant Team.

Sitoski said the memorandum of understanding would allow the two Upper Macungie officers currently on the Municipal Emergency Response Team to be part of the district attorney’s warrant team and execute warrants that do not necessitate the activation of the full MER Team.

Sitoski said the MER Team will be split into two warrant teams and handle entries that, while not requiring a full activation, still have a heightened risk and require officers with specialized training.

file photo Upper Macungie Police Chief Michael Sitoski