Apr. 17—Federal authorities were searching for a homicide suspect when they took a 17-year-old boy into custody on Feb. 2 as he stepped off a bus, in a case of mistaken identity.
The boy's mother spoke to The Tribune-Democrat on Thursday about the incident near The Johnstown Galleria in Richland Township.
Authorities had been looking for Terrion Gates, 18, of Johnstown, in connection with an Oct. 17 murder in Indiana Borough that authorities said started as a drug buy. Three other suspects in that killing are in police custody.
Takesha Dickens said her son was on his way to work when authorities followed him as he hopped on a bus in Johnstown's Hornerstown section. When the boy got off the bus near the mall, U.S. Marshals moved in.
"He got off the bus and there was an unmarked car," Dickens said, according to her son's account.
Two men who were not in uniform approached the boy, she said.
"They flashed a badge and said they were U.S. Marshals and said, 'Can you get in the car, answer some questions,' " Dickens said.
Dickens said her son thought it was a racially motivated attack and panicked.
"They scared him," she said. "He ran out of fear. He thought he was running for his life."
The boy was chased by officers from multiple departments. He was caught when he ran onto U.S. Route 219, dodging traffic, and was tased.
"I'm furious," Dickens said. "My son was tased. He was going to work."
Phil Cornelious, chief deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service, Western District of Pennsylvania, said in a statement to The Tribune-Democrat that two officers with the Marshals Violent Offender Task Force, operating in Johnstown, followed the boy because he fit the description of a homicide suspect.
"When the subject deboarded the bus, the officers approached him and identified themselves as U.S. Marshals and asked if they could ask him some questions," Cornelious said in a statement.
"The subject then fled on foot. The officers gave chase and called for assistance. Other law enforcement officers responded, and the subject, who continued to try to evade arrest by jumping into a car, was tased and taken into custody. The subject, who is 17, was discovered to not be the homicide suspect and released to his parents."
The U.S. Marshals Service makes every effort to protect the public, law enforcement and the subjects themselves when seeking fugitives, Cornelious said.
"A fleeing suspect must always be treated as potentially dangerous to all three," he said.
U.S. Marshals and Altoona police arrested Gates in March in connection with the shooting death of Jayden Wright, 20, who was found in a parking lot near the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus.
Gates; Isaiah A. Moore, 20, of Philadelphia; Delmar L. Chatman, 21, of Johnstown; and Isabella Edmonds, 17, of Indiana, are in police custody awaiting court appearances.