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Pa. Gunman Kills 2, Surrenders

March 2, 2000

WILKINSBURG, Pa. (AP) _ A gunman who reportedly flew into a rage over a broken door went on a rampage Wednesday, shooting a maintenance worker at his apartment and customers at two fast-food restaurants before surrendering to police during a hostage standoff. Two people were killed and three critically wounded.

Ronald Taylor, 39, of Wilkinsburg, was arrested in an office building after he kept police at bay for two hours, holding four or five people in wheelchairs hostage at a senior hospice center.

``His mood went from anger to confusion _ distraught, fear and remorse,″ said Sgt. John Fisher, a negotiator for the Pittsburgh SWAT team who talked to Taylor. ``He bantered back and forth between killing himself and surrendering.″

During the standoff, more than three-dozen children from a third-floor day-care center in the building were evacuated, along with other workers.

Taylor, who was arraigned Wednesday night, was charged with two counts of criminal homicide _ an umbrella charge that includes various degrees of murder and manslaughter. The specific charges Taylor may face will be set at a subsequent hearing. No bail was set, and Taylor was not required to enter a plea.

Fisher said Taylor told him that he was upset about a broken door at his apartment. A worker at Taylor’s building said the suspected gunman, who is black, was angry that workers had not repaired the door fast enough. All the shooting victims were white males, authorities said.

``He said, ’You’re all white trash, racist pigs,‴ maintenance worker John DeWitt told The Associated Press.

Wilkinsburg police Chief Gerald Brewer said he had ``nothing factual″ to back up reports that Taylor selected his alleged victims by race.

DeWitt said he and two other workers, one black and one white, tried to ignore Taylor as they fixed the door. At one point, the abuse got so bad DeWitt said he picked up a hammer to defend himself.

``He looked at me and said, ’You’re dead,‴ DeWitt said.

DeWitt said he left to work on another apartment. He later saw one of his colleagues carrying the third worker, John Kroll, who had been shot and would later die. DeWitt said he then saw Taylor heading toward the restaurants.

Police said they did not know whether Taylor had a job. He had no prior criminal record, said Detective James Morton.

The shooting spree began about 11:15 a.m. in this working-class suburb about nine miles east of downtown Pittsburgh. Police, responding to a call, followed him to the restaurants and chased him into the office building.

Four people were shot at the Burger King and McDonald’s restaurants along the main street in the borough of about 21,000 people.

Brewer said two people were dead and three were in critical condition in Pittsburgh-area hospitals. At least two of the wounded were shot in the head, said doctors at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Presbyterian. One of those two was brain dead, Brewer said late Wednesday.

The Allegheny County coroner’s office said the deceased were John Kroll, 55, of Cabot, and Joseph Healy, 71, of Wilkinsburg. The wounded were identified as Richard Clinger, Emil Sanielevici and Steven Bostard.

Clinger was shot while sitting in his van in the McDonald’s parking lot, his stepdaughter said.

``Me and my stepfather were sitting in the truck, and this guy just walked up and started shooting,″ said Candy Zambo, who was unhurt. ``I thought maybe he was going to ask for directions or something. He just turned and walked into McDonald’s.″

Brewer said police were called to a hospital near the McDonald’s. At that time, he said, his officers were told that a shooter was at a nearby apartment. When police arrived at Woodside Apartments, they found the Taylor’s fifth-floor apartment engulfed in flames.

Almost immediately, reports came in about a gunshot victim at the Burger King and at the McDonald’s. The two restaurants are located less than a half-mile from the apartment and about 100 yards apart from each other.

Brewer said his officers chased Taylor into the Penn West office building. Taylor shot at officers twice as he ran, but police never returned fire, Brewer said.

When Taylor went into the office building, he apparently waived his gun at a group of four women and said he had one bullet left, the chief said. But police were able to distract Taylor and get the women out of the building, he said.

Police cordoned off and evacuated the building. The hostages, who had been held in a room on the first-floor, were released before Taylor surrendered, police said.

Police said Taylor walked inside the Burger King with a .22-caliber revolver and shot one person before crossing the street to the McDonald’s. Besides the parking lot victim, the suspect shot a person behind the counter, Brewer said.

Finally, Taylor went to the drive-through lane and shot someone sitting in their car, he said.

``This is very profound tragedy for our jurisdiction,″ Brewer said. ``Our profound sorrow goes out to all the victims involved.″

At a prayer vigil for the victims Wednesday night, organizer Kathy McLafferty said she knew Healy well.

``He’s somebody who would never hurt anybody,″ she said at the Christian Church of Wilkinsburg. ``It’s a real tragedy.″

Tom Connors, who works in a food bank across from Taylor’s apartment, said he saw Taylor as he came out of the building Wednesday morning, heading for the restaurants.

``I thank God that he didn’t want me today,″ Connors said.

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