Recognized for his “heroic actions and leadership abilities” after being shot in the chest inside a home on a rural road in Tioga County’s Nelson Township a year ago, state police Cpl. Adam Kirk has received the 2019 Governor’s Award for Excellence.
“Despite being in a severe amount of pain, Cpl. Kirk actively participated in the securing of the residence. His leadership and direction while severely injured demonstrated actions beyond the normal function of not only a supervisor, but also a human being,” Lt. James C. Warner, commander of staff services at the Montoursville barracks said, according to a news release.
Kirk, a 14-year veteran of the state police, is credited with “diminishing the risk of death or serious injury” to other state troopers and helping to contain the situation, the commander said.
Shortly before noon on Dec. 10, 2019, Kirk and two other state troopers, Justin Fitzwater and Tyler Skelly, were checking on the welfare of 68-year-old Delos Lowe at his home on Barney Hill Road when Kirk was shot in the chest moments after the three men entered the house, Warner said.
“The troopers had knocked on the front door of the home and announced themselves several times as members of the state police who were there to check on the welfare of Lowe,” he said.
“They received no answer,” and there was no sign of Lowe around the outside of the home or at any of the outbuildings on the property, Warner said.
Upon seeing the foundation of the home, “it appeared that it was falling down and uninhabitable,” he said.
“Again, the troopers announced themselves several times while knocking on the door. After receiving no response, a decision was made to enter the home through an unlocked front door,” Warner said, according to the news release.
“The troopers expected to find Lowe either deceased or in serious need of medical attention,” Warner said.
Police had been called by a local restaurant that “regularly delivered free food to Lowe, who lived alone. Employees became concerned about him after not seeing or hearing from him for several days,” he said.
The troopers continued to announce themselves as Kirk made his way down a hallway, Warner said.
“As he approached a blanket that was hanging across a doorway, a gunshot rang out behind the blanket, striking Cpl. Kirk in the center of his chest,” the commander said.
“I’m hit,” Kirk yelled as he immediately began retreating back down the hallway, Warner said.
“The shot came from a 12-gauge shotgun blast which struck Cpl. Kirk’s ballistic vest,” he added.
Unable to reach the front door, Fitzwater kicked out a window, that he and Kirk used to get out of the house.
“As Skelly was seeking better cover and trying to retreat, he saw the blanket from where the shot rang out begin to move. He discharged his handgun towards the threat behind the blanket to provide cover while Kirk and Fitzwater were exiting,” Warner said.
While Lowe barricaded himself in the home, Kirk, “even after being wounded, was instrumental in directing the troopers to set up a perimeter to ensure the containment of Lowe and prevent his escape,” Warner said, adding that Kirk “even had the foresight to provide another state trooper who arrived on the scene with a long gun from his patrol vehicle” before assigning him a position on the perimeter.
As additional troopers arrived and took over the scene, Kirk was loaded into an ambulance and then flown to Robert Packer Hospital, where he was treated for serious injuries and later released, the news release said.
A state police emergency response team arrived at Lowe’s home and took over the situation. “Lowe fired at team members on multiple occasions. Ultimately, he failed to comply with commands to surrender, and appeared with a shotgun in his hand. He was shot and killed,” Warner said.
Warner nominated Kirk to the governor’s office to receive the special award. “He put aside his well-being and persevered during a life-threatening situation to accomplish the mission of the Pennsylvania State police,” he said.
State police Commissioner Col. Robert Evanchick said of Kirk “his life changed in an instant when he was shot by someone he was trying to help. Although seriously injured, his first thoughts were for the safety of his fellow troopers and the public,” according to a state police newsletter.
An Army veteran who served in Iraq, Kirk, married and the father of an 11-year-old girl, is a patrol supervisor at the Montoursville barracks.