Scalp Level fatal shooting

Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees (center) addresses the media concerning a home-invasion fatal shooting that happened in Scalp Level, with Cambria County District Attorney Greg Neugebauer (left) and Windber Borough police Chief Andrew Frear at a press conference held Monday, June 8, 2020, at the corner’s office in downtown Johnstown.

A man who forced his way into a Scalp Level home late Sunday was shot and killed after he ignored warnings to leave the residence, investigators said.

Thomas Deal, 45, of Scalp Level, was confronted by the Second Street home's owner while coming up her basement stairs, Windber Police Chief Andrew Frear said.

The woman warned Deal that she was armed, he said.

Then, she fired after he continued to ascend the stairway despite multiple warnings to "Leave my home" and "Get out," Frear said.

Cambria County Coroner Jeffrey Lees said the incident occurred just before midnight. The man was struck once in the head, Lees said.

An autopsy Monday confirmed the man was at close range – less than six feet from the shooter – when he was struck, Lees added.

Lees, whose primary duty is to determine the cause and manner of death, ruled the shooting a homicide due to a gunshot head wound.

Cambria County District Attorney Greg Neugebauer, who is responsible for determining whether charges are warranted, said it appears the shooting was justified – and that the woman was acting in self-defense.

An investigation is not yet complete, but Neugebauer said the residence, home to a family of three, was broken into late at night by a stranger who apparently wouldn't back down.

Pointing to Pennsylvania's Castle Doctrine, the district attorney said residents have the right to use deadly force against aggressors who illegally enter their residences – if they believe they are at risk of serious injury, rape or death.

He described the invasion as "random" – adding there are no indications the woman and Deal knew each other. That was corroborated by the Scalp Level man's own family, Neugebauer said.

"The case will be subject to a full review ... to see if it meets the (doctrine's) guidelines," he added, noting that the autopsy and police report will be part of the investigation.

Frear said the man forced his way into the home through a basement door. Deal was not armed or carrying anything when he was walking up the stairs, Frear said.

"We may never know why he went inside that house," Neugebauer said.

Frear said his department has investigated a few break-ins involving Scalp Level homes recently, in those cases, the actor was someone residents recognized.

"In this case, (the family) did not know who he was," Frear said.

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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