PITTSBURGH — Allegheny County Sheriff’s deputies were involved in an active shootout with a suspect at North Mathilda Street and Jordan Way in the city’s Garfield neighborhood on Wednesday.
Allegheny County Sheriff Kevin Kraus told Channel 11 that the suspect, William Hardison Sr., was pronounced dead at 5:08 p.m., nearly seven hours after the shootout started.
This happened just blocks away from UPMC Children’s Hospital. Many roads were closed and people were advised to avoid the area.
Multiple sources say over 100 shots were fired in the shootout.
President Joe Biden was briefed on the situation, according to the White House. Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey was also at the scene.
What we know about the suspect, William Hardison Sr.:
William Hardison Sr., 63, was identified as the suspect in the police shootout in Garfield.
Sources said Hardison believed he was a sovereign citizen, meaning he thought he was exempt from the law.
A Channel 11 News photographer discovered a video of Hardison during a prior interaction with police in 2019. In the video, you can see a Moorish flag, which is flown by Moorish sovereign citizens.
Hardison had a criminal history dating back to at least 2000.
What we know about the lead-up to the shootout:
Court documents show that an eviction notice was scheduled to be served at the home at 4817 Broad Street at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Seven sheriff’s office deputies arrived to serve the notice, Allegheny County Sheriff Kevin Kraus said. They tried to make contact with the suspect for several minutes with no success.
Doorbell camera footage shows officers at the scene before shots were fired. Officials said the deputies were met with deadly force at the front door. Law enforcement ran for cover and returned fire, one sheriff’s deputy received a head injury from diving for cover while the suspect was shooting.
Officials said the responding deputies didn’t know he was dangerous and had firearms in the home.
Neighbors told Channel 11 Hardison was a squatter at the home, which was originally owned by his brother.
Since his brother’s death two years ago, the mortgage on the home went into arrears. There was $15,000 or more owed on the house.
What we know about the shootout and standoff:
The shootout began around 15 minutes after the eviction notice was scheduled to be served and lasted for nearly seven hours until Hardison was killed.
Our crews at the scene heard hundreds of shots fired over several hours in the Garfield neighborhood as well as flashbangs.
Officials said Hardison fired shots from the first and second-story windows and through walls.
Officials also said at least three drones put up by law enforcement were shot down by the suspect.
Pittsburgh police chief Larry Scirotto said in a press conference that the drones were used as a means to give Hardison the chance to surrender.
The suspect was given the opportunity to surrender for four and a half hours, but all efforts were unsuccessful, the police chief said.
Gunfire sometimes ceased only to pick back up moments later.
A neighbor told Channel 11 that her home was hit by gunfire. She said she hid in her basement when the shots rang out.
Another neighbor said he escaped out of the back of his home.
How the community and leaders are reacting:
Wednesday was a harrowing day for neighbors, and many had to be evacuated.
Pittsburgh police, the bomb squad, Pennsylvania State Police, the FBI, the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, Allegheny County police, the Attorney General’s Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and SWAT all responded to the scene of the shootout.
People sheltered in place were asked to call 911 and provide their locations so that police could evacuate them from their homes.
Pittsburgh Public Schools officials told Channel 11 that Pittsburgh Montessori School and Obama Academy were on lockdown.
Our crew at the scene also saw babies being evacuated from a nearby daycare.
Mayor Ed Gainey released the following statement about the shootout:
“Pittsburgh – I ask for you to join us in prayer tonight for the entire community of Garfield, a peaceful neighborhood that was home to an unfortunate tragedy today.
“I want to thank all of our federal, state, and local law enforcement officials here today who worked to keep this neighborhood and our city safe, as well as to our trauma response team who has been on scene helping provide support to those who needed it. Thank you to Governor Josh Shapiro for providing us with state resources, and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald for working to provide the city with additional support.
“I would also like to thank the community for their cooperation as we mobilized our response.
“As a city, we are committed to caring for all those who have been harmed, and we will continue working over the next several days to connect this neighborhood to mental health and trauma support services.”
UPMC Children’s issued the following statement:
“Pittsburgh Police are responding to a shooting incident approximately ½ mile from UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The individual is accounted for and there is no direct threat to patients, staff or visitors. Enhanced security is now present on campus and will continue through the day.”
Pittsburgh Public Safety issued a statement, saying in part:
“Our Public Safety personnel - a family -, the community of Garfield, and indeed the entire City of Pittsburgh, suffered a collective trauma today in experiencing this unfortunate incident. I want to commend all of the Department of Public Safety officials who worked tirelessly throughout the day in an effort to bring this to an end. I will ensure that our Public Safety employees, in addition to community members, are afforded all of the services they need to help process what they have witnessed today,” said Public Safety Director, Lee Schmidt.
“Pittsburgh Public Safety would also like to thank all of its local, state, and federal law enforcement partners who assisted in this effort, including:
“The Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office, the Allegheny County Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, the FBI, the ATF, North Hills SRT, SHACOG SWAT, HSI, Port Authority Police, the Allegheny County Crime Lab, and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.”
Allegheny Health Network West Penn Hospital operated under a “controlled access” order for the duration of the incident but lifted it once the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.
Pennsylvania State Police will handle the investigation moving forward.
On Thursday, a Pittsburgh Public Safety official told Channel 11 about 40 Pittsburgh police officers are on paid leave as protocol. The officers had to turn in the weapons that were fired. They will have to see a psychologist and then give an interview. They could be off for a week or so, according to the official.
Download the FREE WPXI News app for breaking news alerts.
©2023 Cox Media Group