Butler Eagle | By Kim Paskorz
MARION TWP — A 17-year-old boy allegedly threatened people in his home with an assault rifle Monday afternoon, setting off a substantial police search and bringing the small community of Boyers to a standstill.
No one was hurt. And the incident ended around 4:45 p.m., when the boy surrendered to police.
The juvenile, who was not identified, will face four counts each of terroristic threats, reckless endangerment and simple assault, police said.
Authorities said the boy already has a felony conviction of aggravated assault for shooting someone in the leg or foot about a year ago, and still was on probation at the time of his arrest.
Butler County District Attorney Richard Goldinger said the boy is in the custody of Butler County Juvenile Probation, and is being held at a juvenile detention facility until a hearing can be held. The circumstances later will be reviewed to determine if juvenile court is appropriate.
State police Cmdr. Eric Hermick said the incident apparently began when the boy was confronted by adults about damage that had been done to the rental home they share at 126 Middendorf St., including a kicked in door.
When the argument escalated, the boy located an assault rifle described as similar to an AK-47, that had been taken from him by a relative a day earlier.
The boy allegedly pointed the semi-automatic weapon at one person in the house, an uncle, and threatened the three others, who included two other adults and a 1-year-old girl.
“He reportedly told the people in the house that they had 10 minutes to get out or he would shoot,” said Trooper Chris Birkbichler.
No shots were fired. When told police were on the way, the boy reportedly fled into the woods behind his house with the rifle.
State police, who were alerted at about 2:45 p.m., shut down much of Boyers — evacuating some homes and blocking the roads as far as the intersection of Route 308 and Branchton Road — as they searched on foot and with helicopters through what one officer described as “rough and woodsy” terrain. The pursuit, which included the state Special Emergency Response Team, took some of the officers through a swamp.
Two hours later, the shirtless, unarmed and tatooed boy turned himself in to police, who had set up a perimeter at Goff Station Road, which is about a mile and a half from the boy's home. At that time, the boy reportedly did not have any weapons on him.
Police said later, with the boy's cooperation, they recovered the gun, a bayonet and six live rounds of ammunition from the woods, where the boy reportedly had buried them under some leaves.
The commotion of police activity brought a bevy of neighbors to Vanda Burk's 2311 W. Sunbury Road front porch — just a few doors down from the center of police activity.
Burk said she knows both the boy and his mother. The family, which also includes another brother, moved to the neighborhood about eight months ago. Burk and Stacy Harris, who lives at the same home as Burk, said they are nice people.
“He was just a scared kid who happened to have a gun in hand and someone called the police so he ran,” Burk said. “He is a nice, polite kid ... He would always stop by and say hello. He was never nasty.”
And Harris added, “He's a nice kid who had a bad day.”
Burk said the police, “pretty much shut the whole town down,” but she did not blame them. “They had no idea what they were facing, and they were polite the whole time. They didn't go bananas.”
Troy Warinner, the 16-year-old son of the Rev. Gary Warinner of Bell Memorial Wesleyan Methodist Church, said his family had a ring-side seat watching the developments unfold.
The parsonage on Middendorf Street is just 500 feet from the boy's house.
“It's pretty exciting,” Troy said when contacted by telephone at the parsonage about 4:10 p.m. “Nothing ever happens in Boyers but when it does, look out.”
Troy said his mother first sensed trouble about 3 p.m. when police converged onto the road.
As he kept watch from the window, Troy realized police were targeting his neighbor's house.
Around 4 p.m., he said he saw heavily armed police headed into the woods in front of the house and the parsonage. He said he could hear officers, using bull horns, call out the name of the boy being sought.
Troy said he did not know the boy but his father did, barely.
“My dad would say, 'Hi,' to him, when he saw him,” Troy said. “But that was about it.”
While people like Burk and Troy had ideas of what was going on, a good portion of the town was left confused by a range of rumors swirling about.
“I have grandchildren. This scares me,” said Donna Fitzingo, who lives on Garner Lane. Fitzingo said no one official gave her a direct idea of what was happening when her three grandchildren, ages 21, 12, and 4, were evacuated from their home and placed in her home.
Fred Humphrey of Harrisville was in Boyers to do a plumbing job. He said all he was aware of was movement of the police who were heavily armed and using a bullhorn.
“They meant business,” he said.
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MARION TWP: Police swarm in, arrest teen who had rifle
Butler Eagle | By Kim Paskorz