Originally created 03/02/00

Suspect in custody after shooting spree



WILKINSBURG, Pa. -- A man set his apartment on fire today, then shot lunchtime customers at two fast-food restaurants and holed up in an office building before surrendering. Two people were killed and three critically wounded, police said.

The suspect, who had held four or five hostages, surrendered in a hallway, said Thomas Sturgeon, superintendent of Allegheny County police.

He and Gerald Brewer, the Wilkinsburg police chief, said two people were killed before the suspect, identified as Ronald Taylor, went to the building, which houses day care and senior citizens' centers.

The hostages were safely released when the suspect surrendered, State Police Trooper Jim Algeo said.

The rampage began at about 11 a.m. in Wilkinsburg, about nine miles east of Pittsburgh.

John DeWitt, a 63-year-old maintenance worker in the suspect's apartment building, said he and two other workers went to replace the man's front door, which had been broken several days earlier because the man had lost his keys.

DeWitt told The Associated Press he left to work on another apartment and later saw one of the other maintenance workers carrying the other, who had been shot. DeWitt said he then saw the tenant walk toward the restaurants, about a mile away.

Police did not immediately comment about DeWitt's account.

The one-bedroom apartment on the top floor of a five-story building was charred and its windows blown out.

One person was shot at a Burger King and three at a nearby McDonald's restaurant, Brewer said. The fifth victim was a maintenance man at Taylor's apartment building.

Taylor, 39, of Wilkinsburg, was awaiting arraignment at the Allegheny County Coroner's office.

Police did not release further information about the victims, but a woman at the scene said her stepfather, Richard Clinger, was shot while sitting in his van in the McDonald's parking lot.

"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."

Tony Elhaja, manager of a Dunkin' Donuts next to the McDonald's, said the daughter of the man shot in the parking lot came into his store to wait for police.

"She ran inside and was crying," Elhaja said.

Brewer said the gunman fled into the office building and remained there with the hostages until he surrendered at about 2 p.m.

As police surrounded the building, officers led a group of children away.

Taryn Harris said her 2- and 5-year-old daughters remained inside the day-care center before the suspect surrendered. "They said they were OK. They just can't come out," Harris said.

Four of the victims were taken to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Presbyterian, hospital officials said. A 65-year-old man was taken to Mercy Hospital with a single gunshot wound to the head, spokeswoman Linda K. Ross said. One person died at Presbyterian; police did not say where the second victim died.

As police negotiated with the gunman, Don Treser spoke on a cell phone with his fiancee, Janet Lukitsch, who was on the second floor of the building at a home health care business.

"They're OK," Treser said. "This is awful. You watch this in the movies. Not in real life."