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2 murdered, gunman dead at Hempfield apartment building

Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review - Law enforcement walk back to their vehicles after searching Hempfield Heights apartment complex for a shooting suspect in Hempfield Township on Wednesday, November 6, 2013. The suspect was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review</em></div>Law enforcement walk back to their vehicles after searching Hempfield Heights apartment complex for a shooting suspect in Hempfield Township on Wednesday, November 6, 2013. The suspect was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review - A Pennsylvania State Police trooper blocks the entrance to Hempfield Heights Apartments along West Hills Drive in Hempfield after two people were found slain there on Nov. 6, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Sean Stipp  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A Pennsylvania State Police trooper blocks the entrance to Hempfield Heights Apartments along West Hills Drive in Hempfield  after two people were found slain there on Nov. 6, 2013.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review - Jazmine Hall of Jeannette reacts after finding out that her cousin, Christina Marie White, was killed earlier in the day, Wednesday Nov. 6, 2013, in a double homicide at Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield. Christina's aunt, Paula Pasparage, is at right.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Barry Reeger  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Jazmine Hall of Jeannette reacts after finding out that her cousin, Christina Marie White, was killed earlier in the day, Wednesday Nov. 6, 2013, in a double homicide at Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield.  Christina's aunt, Paula Pasparage, is at right.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review - State police officers speak to people at the scene of a double homicide at Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review</em></div>State police officers speak to people at the scene of a double homicide at Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review - Shawn Hill speaks about his cousin, Christina Marie White, who was killed earlier in the day Wednesday Nov. 6, 2013, in a double homicide at Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Barry Reeger  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Shawn Hill speaks about his cousin, Christina Marie White, who was killed earlier in the day Wednesday Nov. 6, 2013, in a double homicide at Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review - After speaking to police, people leave the scene of a double homicide at Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review</em></div>After speaking to police, people leave the scene of a double homicide at Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review - Trista Baughman, a resident of Hempfield Heights in Hempfield, sits at the blocked entrance to the apartment complex on Wednesday, November 6, 2013. Hempfield Heights was the scene of a double homicide Wednesday morning, and residents including Baughman were prohibited from returning to their homes while police looked for a shooting suspect.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review</em></div>Trista Baughman, a resident of Hempfield Heights in Hempfield, sits at the blocked entrance to the apartment complex on Wednesday, November 6, 2013. Hempfield Heights was the scene of a double homicide Wednesday morning, and residents including Baughman were prohibited from returning to their homes while police looked for a shooting suspect.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review - A state police officer questions drivers at the Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield, the scene of a double homicide on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review</em></div>A state police officer questions drivers at the Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield, the scene of a double homicide on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review - People watch as police investigate the scene of a double homicide at Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review</em></div>People watch as police investigate the scene of a double homicide at Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review - Investigators work the scene of a double homicide at the Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review</em></div>Investigators work the scene of a double homicide at the Hempfield Heights apartment complex in Hempfield on Wednesday, November 6, 2013.
- Christina Marie White was one of the victims of a double homicide at Hempfield Heights on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. White was hired as a part-time Westmoreland County corrections officer in August.
Christina Marie White was one of the victims of a double homicide at Hempfield Heights on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013. White was hired as a part-time Westmoreland County corrections officer in August.

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By Paul Peirce and Richard Gazarik
Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 9:27 a.m.
 

A gunman who chased his two upstairs neighbors outside, shot them in the street and left them to die in view of other tenants put a massive Hempfield Township apartment complex in lockdown for more than seven hours on Wednesday as state troopers went door to door searching for him.

Around 2:30 p.m., they found him, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in his apartment at Hempfield Heights, state police spokesman Steve Limani said.

Westmoreland County Prison Warden John Walton confirmed that one of the victims was Christina White, 23, a part-time corrections officer hired in August.

“I can confirm she is a guard at the prison,” Walton said.

He said Deputy Warden Steve Cmar went to the scene and identified White for state police.

The name of the other victim, believed to be White's boyfriend, and the gunman will not be released until Thursday, Limani said.

According to several neighbors, the gunman had often argued with White and her boyfriend about loud music.

Limani would not confirm that the ongoing dispute was the motive.

Shortly after 7 a.m., a resident in the complex called state police to report gunshots. “When we arrived, we found two people dead,” Limani said.

Elena DeLuca said she was awakened by the series of bangs outside her building.

“Just after 7 a.m. I heard pop, pop, pop, pop,” she said. “I thought it was fireworks. When I heard the whistles and sirens, that's what alerted me that it wasn't fireworks.”

Trista Baughman also said she was awakened by the gunfire.

“I looked outside and there was a body laying in the road, dead. He was all bloody. There was blood all over,” she said. “State police told me to get back inside.”

One of the victims, a bald white man, wore a ball cap and jeans, she said. A woman lying nearby also appeared to be dead.

Police cordoned off a section of West Hills Drive, blocking anyone from entering the complex near Z&M Cycle Shop. Numerous state troopers in tactical gear and with rifles pointed searched the area. Tenants who briefly left were not allowed back onto the property.

Thinking the shooter was still in the area, state police issued a warning to the public to stay away from the complex, located just off Route 30 east.

Troopers spent the next hours pursuing the gunman in the complex, which has nine apartment buildings and hundreds of tenants. All the buildings were in lockdown into the afternoon and a SWAT team was on standby.

“We're fortunate no one else was injured with the number of people who live in the complex,” Limani said.

Troopers had an idea where the gunman was located and started the door-to-door search, Limani said. They narrowed it down to an apartment in Building F.

DeLuca heard troopers calling to the suspect through a bullhorn.

“We just want to talk to you, Philip. Nobody's going to hurt you,” the troopers pleaded over and over, she said.

The gunman never responded to the pleas, Limani said.

After a pause, troopers sent a remote-controlled robot into the apartment, DeLuca said.

At 2:30 p.m., troopers entered the apartment and found the man dead of a gunshot to the head.

Limani said both the time of the shootings and the size of Hempfield Heights posed a challenge for the tactical team.

“First of all, when it began, you had children and parents out getting ready for school, people leaving for work, and then there are so many people remaining throughout the housing complex,” Limani said. “You have to be careful and yet be very aggressive at the same time.”

Autopsies were to be conducted on Thursday evening by forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht and Associates.

By afternoon, relatives gathered at the home of White's family in Jeannette.

Shawn Hill said he left work when he heard the news of his cousin's death.

“She was a beautiful girl. She took care of her responsibilities,” Hill said. “She was a real beautiful young lady.”

White had worked as a security guard at Wal-Mart until she was hired at the prison.

Another cousin, Jazmine Hall, said White was devoted to her family.

“All she was worried about was her family,” Hall said.

Hempfield Area School Superintendent Andy Leopold said Fort Allen Elementary School, Harrold Middle School and the nearby high school were not locked down during the incident. But as a precaution, children were not allowed outside for recess or physical education classes.

Leopold said some students who attend the three schools live in Hempfield Heights.

State police notified Leopold around 2:30 p.m. that the alert had been lifted.

Paul Peirce and Richard Gazarik are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Peirce at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com. Gazarik can be reached at 724-830-6292 or rgazarik@tribweb.com.

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