Three found dead in suspected murder-suicide in Westmoreland
November 6, 2013 11:28 PM
A state police officer in SWAT gear approaches the Hempfield Heights Apartments in Hempfield after two people were found dead in a parking lot there early Wednesday.
Rebecca Graban of Elizabeth Township tells reporters about the police presence at the Hempfield Heights Apartments in Hempfield on Wednesday.
By Molly Born and Lexi Belculfine / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
After gunfire was reported in a Westmoreland County apartment complex Wednesday morning, police said they found a man and woman shot to death in a parking lot and, hours later, the suspected shooter dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Westmoreland County Prison warden John Walton said the female victim was Christina Marie White, a part-time guard.
State police and the county coroner are expected to identify the victims and shooter at a news conference today.
The jail received an anonymous phone call Wednesday morning that one of its corrections officers committed suicide, which was erroneous as she was one of the two shooting victims, the warden said. Law enforcement hadn't verified it to him, Mr. Walton said, but Ms. White's family contacted the jail. She had been a guard since August and had last worked the 2-to-10 shift Tuesday and was off Wednesday.
"She seemed to have a knack for working with the inmates," Mr. Walton said, adding she was a great communicator. He said he believes she lived in Hempfield Heights.
Gunshots were reported around 7:20 a.m. outside the complex on West Hills Drive off Route 30, and a person was reportedly seen running into an apartment building, said Trooper Stephen Limani of the Greensburg barracks. Just before noon, tactical officers prepared to enter the building. They used a bullhorn to communicate with someone inside, stopped a while, and resumed about 2 p.m.
"No one is going to hurt you," they said.
Officers searched door-to-door for the gunman at the complex and entered an apartment around 2:30 p.m., where they found a person -- believed to be the sole shooter -- dead, Trooper Limani said. A motive had not been determined Wednesday.
Rebecca Graban of Elizabeth Township walked down the hill from the apartment complex, which was blocked off to traffic, shortly before 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. She said she heard sirens that morning.
"I just came outside and SWAT was coming up the driveway," she said.
Some Hempfield Heights residents, a few unsettled, waited it out for hours until police allowed them to return to their apartments. One, Bill Yanosko, left for work about 4 a.m. and returned to find the driveway blocked. He remembered various incidents at the complex since he moved there in 1993, but said the events Wednesday were unprecedented.
"This," he said, "was by far the biggest thing I've seen up here."