Frankstown sealed for search

The East Loop area of Frankstown Township was sealed off Thursday after a man with a weapon threatened to harm himself and fled into the woods.

State police provided few details Thursday afternoon except that troopers were searching an area around Hollidaysburg Sportsman Road, off East Loop Road, for a man with a weapon.

East Loop Road and about a half-dozen adjoining roads, most of them dead ends, were shut off to traffic, and residents already in their homes were told to stay put until state police resolved the situation, Fransktown Township EMA Coordinator Denny Walls said.

Walls said a relief station at the Geeseytown Volunteer Fire Department was set up about 3:30 p.m. to deal with residents who were cut off from their homes and accommodate school children who were unable to get home after the Hollidaysburg Area School District was forced to cancel one of its bus routes.

The district also locked down Fransktown Elementary School Thursday afternoon, according to Superintendent Robert Gildea. He said state police informed the district that a man with a weapon had fled into the woods and that he was contained in an area near Hollidaysburg Sportsman Road.

Walls said Blair County Sheriff’s deputies were outside to help check identifications of people coming into the relief station because he identity of the man involved in the incident wasn’t released. Walls said deputies were on hand to make sure the man didn’t try to go to the fire hall and pass himself off as just a displaced resident.

Walls said the single school bus affected by the incident arrived at the fire hall, where parents were able to pick up the half-dozen students. Two students whose parents were unable to get to the fire hall were taken back to the school so arrangements could be made to have them picked up there, Walls added.

Walls said food was being supplied for police, emergency responders and residents displaced by the incident.

One of those residents, Elizabeth Hess, of 4806 E. Loop Road, said she learned of the incident through text messages shortly after she left her house for a riding lesson at a nearby stable.

Hess, 44, said when she learned state police had sealed off the East Loop area, she immediately thought back to the Dec. 21, 2012, shooting spree in which three people were killed by Jeffrey Lee Michael before he was shot to death by state police.

“I thought, ‘Oh dear,'” said Hess, who is the minister of Altoona’s Trinity Lutheran Church, and also the Geeseytown Fire Department’s chaplain. “It’s a little unnerving. A year-and-a-half ago, I responded as the chaplain. This time, it’s on my road, a couple of houses down.”

Hess said police told her to be prepared to stay five hours or all night, and she said even though she could stay elsewhere, she’ll remain at the fire hall to help out.

Walls said everyone was hoping for a “quick and happy” conclusion to the incident and said plans were in place should the fire hall need to remain open all night.

“Should this turn into long-term, we’ll take those steps,” he said.