Police seek Hempfield man on ethnic intimidation charges after he fled
A Hempfield man who was arrested in 2017 for leaving threatening voice mails at a Penn Township church was charged Friday with harassing the pastor there over two days last week, according to court papers.
Mark Eugene Ray, 59, fled from police Friday morning when officers tried to arrest him on ethnic intimidation and related charges, according to Penn Township Police Chief John Otto.
Ray escaped out a back door at his house and got a ride from a neighbor.
“So far, for the day, he remains one step ahead of us,” Otto said.
The search for Ray briefly caused lockdowns at two Hempfield Area schools Friday morning. West Hempfield middle and elementary schools were on lockdown until around 11:15 a.m., according to a notice on the district’s website. The schools were locked down at about 10:30 a.m., when Ray fled from police.
Students were not in danger, but nobody was permitted to leave or enter the buildings. District Executive Assistant Pamela Gibasiewicz said alerts were sent to parents.
Ray was first arrested in October 2017 after police said he attacked the religious views and ethnicity of members and pastors at Living Word Congregational Church in voicemails left at the church. He used racial slurs in those messages to describe the congregation and called the church “cursed” for its supposed political leanings, according to court papers.
In the new case, Ray is accused of leaving four voice mails — two each on May 14 and 15 — using similar language directed at the church’s pastor, who police said is black. Ray is white, according to court documents.
In one of the messages, police say, Ray threatened the pastor in relation to the previous case.
The voice mails were an attempt to scare the pastor into ending the prosecution and “meant to cause substantial emotional stress on the listener,” Officer Blake Danowski wrote in the complaint. “Ray has been told in the past to cease contact with the church.”
Ray has been free on $10,000 unsecured bond since his 2017 arrest on ethnic intimidation and harassment charges. A hearing on a pretrial motion from the defense was held in January.
Ray is charged with ethnic intimidation, witness intimidation, stalking and harassment in the new case. His attorney could not be reached.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call township police at 724-863-1119.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .