Halfway house escapee caught in Hill District

Man serving remainder of sentence for bomb threats barricaded himself in house, disrupting area

U.S. marshals captured a halfway house escapee who barricaded himself in a Hill District house Monday in an incident that affected local residents, business and traffic.

Termaine Washington, 24, emerged from the three-story, multiunit brick house at Crawford and Reed streets around 10:50 a.m., shortly after SWAT officers stormed inside, said supervisory deputy U.S. Marshal Jon Gallagher.

Washington was wanted by federal authorities since leaving Renewal Inc. Downtown on April 8, where he was serving the remainder of a 24-month sentence on six felony counts of conveying a false bomb threat through interstate commerce.

Washington pleaded guilty last year to calling in six bomb threats in a five-day period in September 2012 in an apparent effort to get a friend out of jail. He called Allegheny County 911 three times claiming that there was a bomb in the jail, twice that he would blow up PNC Park and once that he would detonate an explosive in a Port Authority T station.

Bureau of Federal Prisons records show Washington was released from a federal facility in Gilmer, W.Va., on Feb. 28 and ordered to spend the rest of his sentence at the halfway house.

U.S. marshals -- working with the FBI, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County police -- initiated the operation Monday morning by surrounding the building and then slowly moving in. Heavily armed and armored, the officers searched each floor of the building before finding Washington and taking him into custody. At one point, they deployed a flash bang.

The incident affected local traffic, businesses and residents for more than two hours.

Donald Hetzler, 71, landlord of the building who said he offers bunks for people who need a place to stay, said he met Washington through Shepherd's Heart Fellowship, a Hill District outreach center. He said Washington had been staying at his house on and off.

Three tenants, one barefoot, were standing outside the building Monday morning waiting to see when they could go back inside.

Tamoris Parker, a 25-year-old cook at PNC Park, said he awoke to police shouting and was taken out of the building.

His cell phone and other items he needed for work were still inside.

"I had work at 12. I should be gone," he said shortly after 11:30 a.m. He and the other tenants were allowed to return a short time later.

Washington is serving the rest of his sentence while federal authorities consider additional charges.

Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944. First Published April 21, 2014 11:44 AM


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