ShareThis Page

Anonymous tip led to arrest of suspect in Route 30 shootings

| Thursday, May 10, 2012, 9:19 p.m.

An anonymous tip helped police identify a man accused of shooting a small-caliber rifle at vehicles, signs and a building in Hempfield Township.

Michael Wayne Ghrist, 19, of 322 Rear Spring Ave., Greensburg, was arraigned late New Year's Eve in Westmoreland County Night Court on four counts of aggravated assault, five counts of reckless endangerment and seven counts of criminal mischief.

State police at Greensburg allege Ghrist took a .22-caliber rifle to Sacred Heart Cemetery, located off Route 30 near Possum Hollow Road, on Dec. 26 and randomly fired shots toward the highway.

Four vehicles traveling in the eastbound and westbound lanes were hit in a 10-minute span that began at 9 p.m., according to a police affidavit. No one was injured, but each vehicle sustained damages, including bullet holes.

Police said an anonymous tipster lead them to Ghrist, but they also said evidence connected to the shootings was discovered during an unrelated criminal investigation in the city of Greensburg.

City police said Ghrist was picked up Dec. 29 on an arrest warrant stemming from a Dec. 10 theft charge. The theft charge was filed for alleged unauthorized use of a bank card. Police said Ghrist faces a preliminary hearing before District Justice James Albert, of Greensburg, later this month on the theft charge.

State police said it was during the theft investigation that witnesses and unspecified evidence in the shooting spree were discovered.

Although Ghrist resides in the city, state police said he was a guest at a residence in Hempfield Highlands mobile home park at the time of the shootings. The park is located within walking distance of the cemetery.

State police said they picked up Ghrist in the city and that he admitted to the shootings. They said he also took them to his Greensburg apartment, where a .22-caliber rifle believed to have been used in the shootings was recovered.

Investigators also recovered bullet fragments and .22-caliber shell casings from locations in and around the cemetery.

In addition to the four vehicles, Ghrist shot at a maintenance building on the cemetery grounds and a sign for the mobile home park, police said. Investigators have determined bullet holes in both structures were caused by a .22-caliber weapon.

Police allege Ghrist also fired shots at property owned by PennDOT, but the affidavit was nonspecific as to the type of property targeted.

Ghrist was arraigned before District Justice Mark Bilik, of Derry Township, and lodged in the Westmoreland County Prison in lieu of $50,000 bond.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me