Investigators try to determine if homicide was justified
Investigators are trying to determine if a shooting that took place in the 1700 block of Snyder Road in Upper Frederick last Saturday was justified under Pennsylvania’s new “Castle Doctrine.” The law, enacted in June 2011, permits law-abiding citizens to use force, including deadly force, against an attacker in their homes or any place where they have a legal right to be. It also protects individuals from civil lawsuits by an attacker or attacker’s family when force is used.
State Police and emergency services units from Green Lane and Upper Perkiomen Ambulance associations were called to the scene, not far from Green Lane Park and the Perkiomen Trail, around 8 p.m. for the report of two people shot and one person “hit in the head with a bat.”
When police arrived, they found Zachary Levin, 19, of Barto, lying in the driveway of the home. Levin was a student at Boyertown Area High School. He suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the chest. His father, Joshua Levin, 34, also of Barto suffered gunshot wounds and was treated at Lehigh Valley Medical Center.
The incident started when a woman residing at the residence of her boyfriend contacted her husband, Joshua Levin, to pick her up after she and the boyfriend argued. Joshua and Zachary Levin arrived at the boyfriend’s residence on Snyder Road and upon their arrival, both reportedly got out of their car wielding baseball bats – one a full size aluminum bat and the other a small wood replica bat. The resident has not been identified pending the outcome of the investigation.
According to a press release issued by Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, “When the resident of the home saw the two men poised to attack him with baseball bats, he retreated to the rear of the property where his truck was parked. Both Joshua and Zachary Levin pursued him on foot and threatened to kill him. As they pursued him, they each had a bat in their hands.
“When the resident arrived at his truck, he retrieved a Ruger .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun from under the front seat. The gun was legally owned and properly registered to the resident who possessed a valid license to carry firearms. Both Joshua and Zachary Levin confronted the resident outside of his pickup truck, poking him with their baseball bats. At one point, Joshua Levin struck the truck in the left front. During this entire encounter, the resident attempted to move away from the pair and retreat. They pursued him around the truck and had him trapped with one baseball bat wielding man on each side of him.
“The resident attempted to end the confrontation by displaying his firearm and announcing that he was armed. He struck Joshua Levin in the front of his head with the handgun in an attempt to back him down. These actions did not have a deterrent effect.”
Zachary reportedly then struck the resident with a bat and the resident fired a shot that struck the younger Levin. Zachary fled after the shot was fired. The elder Levin came at the resident with his bat poised to strike and a second shot was fired and Joshua fell to the ground. The shooter then disarmed Joshua of the baseball bat and called 911.
According to Vetri Ferman, just prior to the gunfire, a neighbor was outside his home at the time of the shootings and heard a loud verbal exchange that included hearing a person threatening to call the police; a second person responded to the first person saying, “go ahead” and call the police.
When the State Police arrived, they discovered Zachary and Joshua Levin, both with gunshot wounds. Police reported that the shooter surrendered peacefully when they arrived.
An autopsy was conducted by the Coroner’s Office which ruled the death of Zachary Levin a homicide.
Dion Betts, Ed.D., Superintendent of the Boyertown Area School District, posted a message on the district’s website Monday morning reporting the death of Zachary Levin and that school counselors would be available to students throughout the district to “assist any student who needs grief counseling.”
On Sunday morning, the site of the shooting was swarming with investigators, including a State Police helicopter that hovered above the property where the incident took place.
The incident is being jointly investigated by Montgomery County District Attorney’s office and the Pennsylvania State Police. Crime scene, ballistics and toxicology test results are pending.