LANCASTER COUNTY, Pennsylvania (WPMT) — A 71-year-old Lebanon County man was carrying an AR-15 rifle, two handguns, rope, gloves, a large amount of ammunition, and $5,000 in cash and was allegedly on his way to Washington, D.C. to kill government officials when he was arrested in Shippensburg last month, according to charging documents filed by Pennsylvania State Police.
Kenelm L. Shirk III, of the 1000 block of Bell Tower Drive near Cornwall, was taken into custody on Jan. 21, according to the criminal complaint affidavit.
He was taken into custody at a Sheetz store near Shippensburg by troopers stationed along Interstate 81 South to detain him.
Police issued a bulletin for Shirk after his wife contacted authorities, seeking an involuntary detainment following an argument over the results of the 2020 presidential election, charging documents say.
Shirk allegedly threatened her life and told her he was planning to attack government officials in Washington, and claimed he would “suicide by cop” if met by police along the way, according to the complaint.
Shirk, who is a member of a law firm in Ephrata, Lancaster County, and is the longtime solicitor for Akron borough, left his Lebanon County home on Jan. 21, his spouse reported.
State Police pinged his cell phone to determine his location, and took him into custody at 8:25 p.m. that night. Police discovered the rifle, handguns and ammunition, which were clearly visible in his vehicle at the time of his arrest.
On Jan. 22, police say, a nurse at the Chambersburg Hospital Emergency Room who performed a mental evaluation on Shirk after his capture told police he sounded serious when he spoke of killing his wife and members of the government.
If Shirk had gone on to complete his plan, she told police, “she did not want to see it on the news and feel like she was responsible,” according to the complaint.
Police took Shirk to the hospital for an evaluation related to the request from Shirk’s wife that he be involuntarily committed, the complaint states.
During her evaluation, the nurse told police, Shirk allegedly said he would “kill his wife, but not today” in a monotone, deadpan voice.
He allegedly told the nurse he had planned to stop in Alexandria, Virginia to see his son and deliver a present for his granddaughter.
He also said he “had to get up early enough to beat traffic and make it to the government officials’ houses before they left for work” in Washington, the complaint states.
Shirk allegedly said he was 71 years old and inferred that he was ready to die, the nurse told police.
A second ER nurse who spoke to police on the phone after Shirk’s visit to the ER said that while looking through Shirk’s possessions, she found a piece of paper with a to-do list on it. The list mentioned things like birthday gifts and other daily activities, the nurse reported. But on the other side of the page, there were things like “guns, ammo, rope, tools, meds, magazine” written down. The nurse said she took a picture of the list, which she provided to police, according to the complaint.
In a briefcase belonging to Shirk, one nurse found a bag of 50 quarter-sized plastic crosses.
“It was almost as if (Shirk) intended to leave them at the crime scene,” the nurse told police, according to the complaint.
Both nurses reported they found Shirk to be intimidating and disconcerting.
One of the nurses, who said she had been in the medical field for 16 years, reported she found Shirk’s behavior particularly disturbing, and did not want to go to work knowing a patient like him was at the hospital.
“She had a strong gut feeling and instinct that this was more than just a guy who was having a bad day and angry about the election,” police said in the complaint.
Shirk is being held in Franklin County Prison without bail. He is charged with two counts of terroristic threats.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 8 before Chambersburg District Judge Glenn Manns.
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