Two charged, one in custody in two Williamsport shooting deaths
WILLIAMSPORT — Two men have been charged and one is in police custody after two separate shootings recently that left three people dead and a police officer wounded.
Zachary J. Williams, 22, of 878 Memorial Ave. and Joshua A. Cooley, 22, of 621 Court St. were both arraigned Monday before District Court Judge Gary A. Whiteman.
Williams faces charges of homicide related to the shooting death of Maurice Dowling, 25, which ocurred Nov. 12 at 7 p.m along Poco Farm Road and Poco Farm Road Extension in Loyalsock Township, police said. He also faces charges of aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit a burglary, receiving stolen property, persons not to possess a firearm, firearms not to be carried without a license and conspiracy to tamper with physical evidence.
Cooley, who was allegedly a “lookout” for Williams and Dowling as they prepared to burglarize a residence in the township, faces charges of receiving stolen property, conspiracy to commit a burglary, firearms not to be carried without a license, obstruction of law enforcement and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and conspiracy to commit the same.
According to an affidavit by Trooper James Doane, Williams told state police that Dowling had planned to rob and then kill him the night of the planned burglary.
But Cooley contradicted Williams, saying he had pulled out a handgun and shot Dowling first.
Williams contends that Dowling also was shooting at him, according to the affidavit, while Cooley said Dowling was never in possession of a firearm and it was not self-defense.
Dowling’s body was found by authorities riddled with bullet wounds, according to police.
A resident of the Poco Farm Road area told police he heard three gunshots close to his residence at about 7 p.m on Nov. 12.
A second witness said that while driving in the area at 7:14 p.m., she saw a man later identified as Dowling staggering in the roadway and clutching his side, police said.
As she drove by the intersection, she saw a dark-colored sedan, possibly a Ford Crown Victoria, pulling out of Poco Farm Road Extension and traveling south on Poco Farm Road, she told police.
An acquaintance of Dowling said Williams, Cooley and Dowling were at his residence earlier that night from 6 to 6:30 p.m. He then told police the three left his residence together in a dark blue Crown Victoria.
The acquaintance told police that Williams previously had shown him screenshots on his cellphone of messages in which Dowling allegedly was plotting to rob Williams of cash and controlled substances. The acquaintance said that the next morning, Williams contacted him by phone and threatened that if he talked to police, Williams would kill his family.
Cooley said after the shooting, the two went to Williams’ mother’s house and took photos to establish an alibi. Then, the two went to a hotel, where Williams and his girlfriend had a room for an anniversary, police said.
Cooley recounted that while they were at the hotel, he saw Williams use bleach to wipe down the gun and shell casings to eliminate any fingerprints and evidence, police said.
Williams then allegedly put the gun in a box and a series of bags and gave it to Cooley to get rid of, according to the police.
Cooley said he left the hotel with the gun and discarded it on his walk home. He then provided police with the location, a property in the 500 block of Market Street and police said they found the gun amongst bushes along Court Street in a plastic shopping bag.
The firearm was wrapped in a red bandanna and was inside a food container box, according to the affidavit.
Cooley was shown a photo of the recovered gun and identified it both as the one he had disposed of and the gun used by Williams during the shooting, police said.
The gun was reported as stolen by state police on Oct. 24. Police also have surveillance video showing Cooley walking from the hotel to his residence carrying a plastic shopping bag.
Cooley told police that Williams was in possession of screenshot phone messages of a conversation between the victim and another unknown individual. The messages indicated that the victim and the unknown person allegedly were conspiring to rob Williams.
Cooley further related that Williams was a large-scale marijuana dealer and known to have large amounts of cash.
During a search of the Crown Victoria, police found several hidden compartments. In the compartment at the rear driver’s side door was a pistol of a different caliber. It had been reported stolen by city police on July 15, 2015.
Williams allegedly had purchased the gun within the last two months on the street in Williamsport.
Police also said they have recovered a bleach bottle retrieved from the hotel.
Williams was arrested on Nov. 13 on charges stemming from federal firearms violations. He was taken into custody in a parking lot in Bloomsburg as he was approaching a dark blue Crown Victoria.
Cooley was jailed in lieu of $150,000 bail.
Williams was jailed without bail due to the nature of his charges.
In a second shooting incident, Jameir Rodney Hines, 23, was arrested in Philadelphia earlier Monday on charges of homicide related to the shooting death of Shawn “Shizz” Graham, 33, of Williamsport, city police Capt. Don Mayes said.
Police allege Hines acted in conjunction with Paul Heath, 27, during a Nov. 7 home invasion and robbery that resulted in the slaying of Graham.
Shortly afterward, Heath engaged in a gun battle with city Patrolman Nicholas Carrita, causing the officer to sustain a gunshot wound to the arm, Mayes said.
Heath subsequently led police on a pursuit from Route 220 to Jersey Shore, then back to a Sheetz in Woodward Township, along which he exchanged gunfire with police officers then committed suicide with the gun, Mayes said.
Hines was transported, processed and arraigned and placed in the Lycoming County Prison without bail.
Agent Damon Hagan and Agent Trent Peacock are leading the investigation. Carrita continues to heal, police said.