Official Kills Self as Cameras Roll : Penn. Treasurer Faced 55-Year Prison Term for Bribery
State Treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, convicted in a bribery scandal and facing the possibility of a life behind bars, shot himself to death at a news conference today before TV cameras and dozens of horrified spectators.
“No! No! No!” aides shouted as Dwyer pulled a .357 magnum revolver from a manila envelope, placed it in his mouth pointing up toward his brain and pulled the trigger.
He collapsed in a pool of blood on his blue-carpeted office floor and was declared dead at 11:31 a.m. His body was placed in a black bag and carried from his office more than an hour later.
Reporters and aides believed Dwyer, who was to have been sentenced on Friday, intended to announce his resignation. There was no advance warning of the shooting.
But he apparently orchestrated his own death well ahead of time, leaving instructions for his funeral and an organ donor card with aides. He had written in a statement that his public suicide would be the “story of the decade.”
Dwyer, 47, married with two children, left a note at home for his family saying he had “given up hope” following his conviction in a contract scandal that involved promises of $300,000 in kickbacks. He faced up to 55 years in jail.
In the last page of a press release, which was not handed out to the media and was never read aloud by Dwyer, he had written: “Last May, I told you that after the trial I would give you the story of the decade. To those of you who are shallow, the events of this morning will be that story.”
Dwyer pulled out the long-barreled gun toward the end of a rambling half-hour news conference at which he urged photographers and camera crews to keep their lenses trained on him. As a result, the bizarre suicide was replayed on television throughout the day.
Dwyer repeatedly denied his guilt at the news conference. “I have done nothing wrong,” said Dwyer, a burly man who weighed about 260 pounds, at the press session in the Finance Building office he occupied for six years.
He then pulled the gun and waved reporters and aides away. He said, “Please leave the room if this will . . . " and then his voice was drowned out by shouts of “No! No! No!” as he shot himself.
“Our family will be praying for Mrs. Dwyer and the family,” said Robert Asher, the former Republican State Committee chairman who was convicted along with Dwyer.
Dwyer’s lawyer, Paul Killion, was outside in the hallway when the shooting occurred, because Dwyer told him he did not want him in the room. “He said, ‘You’re not going to like this,’ ” Killion said.
Frederick Cusick, a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, was sitting on the floor of the office when he saw Dwyer pull “a shiny long-barreled revolver . . . and bam! He shoots himself and slumps against the cabinet.”
Upon his conviction Dec. 18, Dwyer, a Republican, declared himself temporarily disabled to serve as treasurer and named a deputy, Donald Johnson, to fill in for him. Johnson was present when Dwyer shot himself.
Dwyer and Asher were found guilty of steering a Treasury Department contract to California-based Computer Technology Associates Inc. in exchange for promises of kickbacks.
Dwyer awarded the no-bid contract--worth up to about $6 million--to CTA in May, 1984. The firm was to recover overpayments of Social Security taxes by school districts and their employees.
The treasurer canceled the contract two months later because of a federal investigation.