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Mount Pleasant man who threatened gas explosion surrenders

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 8:14 a.m.

A Mt. Pleasant man who threatened to blow up his house by cutting natural gas lines surrendered to state police early Wednesday and will undergo a mental evaluation and could face criminal charges.

State police did not identify the man who held officers at bay after his sister called Westmoreland 911 about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday to report his threat.

Mt. Pleasant fire Chief Jerry Lucia said firefighters evacuated 19 homes in a one-block radius of the suspect's home in the 800 block of Vine Street. No one was hurt, and neighbors have been allowed to return home.

The man has personal and financial problems, according to police.

Police said the man surrendered peacefully about 3 a.m. Wednesday after troopers threw a device through the window.

Lucia said he and crews went to the scene after the call to 911.

After he and his crews determined that gas had leaked, they began evacuating 19 residences on West Vine and Broad streets.

“We were waking people up to tell them we had a gas problem, but we didn't want to panic them with the details of the whole story,” Lucia said. “After it was all over, we did find that he (the suspect) disconnected the gas line from the hot water tank, which filled the house with gas.”

Many residents took temporary shelter at the borough's Central Fire Station on South Church Street, he said.

“At the time of the evacuation, it was snowing pretty good. They (residents) evacuated pretty quickly. The evacuation was done really well. No problems whatsoever,” Lucia said.

Some elderly residents who use oxygen were taken to the fire station by Mt. Pleasant Medic 10, Lucia said. Others went to stay with friends and family members.

Dan Zilli, assistant chief of borough police department, led efforts to communicate with the suspect while he was inside the home, Lucia said.

“He never responded back to us,” Lucia said. “We kept trying to get his attention with the intercom and by blowing the siren, but that wasn't working.”

Eventually, the man came out of the house and was taken into custody, Lucia said.

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