Alleged spree gunman charged in Taylor slaying
Charges have been added in Wayne County against an alleged gunman who fatally shot two people at businesses in Taylor and Pontiac, authorities said.
Vernest James Griffin, 45, of Sterling Heights was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder and other charges in the Thursday slaying of Keith Allen Kitchen, 60, of Garden City, at BSD Linehaul in Taylor.
Griffin was charged Monday in the death of Eriberto Perez, 58, of Waterford Township, who was shot multiple times in the back about 11:37 a.m. Thursday at the Aluminum Blanking Co. on W. Sheffield in Pontiac.
In the Taylor slaying, Griffin is charged with first-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, carjacking and armed robbery. He faces up to a life sentence on the charges.
Griffin, who was ordered held without bond by Pontiac 50th District Judge Cynthia Walker, is expected to be charged with multiple other offenses for his alleged involvement in one other fatal shooting, for allegedly exchanging gunfire with police, stealing a truck at gunpoint and causing a crash that left two motorists with minor injuries.
Griffin was armed with a semi-automatic AK-47 rifle and had more than 200 rounds of ammunition with him in the stolen truck when he was wounded and arrested in Waterford Township on Thursday. He was described Monday as in critical but stable condition.
From all accounts, Griffin is believed to have targeted certain people for death but neither threatened nor shot at other employees present in businesses in Taylor, Pontiac and Waterford Township, according to authorities. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the suspect appeared to have a “hit list in his mind.”
It all began Taylor in Wayne County about 10:30 a.m. Thursday when Griffin, an ex-worker at the BSD Linehaul Inc., entered his former workplace on Pennsylvania near Telegraph with an intent to target one of the employees, police said.
Taylor police dispatched to the business found one man dead at the scene with a gunshot wound and the suspect on the run apparently after he allegedly stole a white 2016 semi-tractor trailer cab at gunpoint.
The Taylor victim has been identified as Kitchen, who was employed at BSD Linehaul.
About 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Griffin drove to nearby Waterford Township where he entered the Assured Trucking business off Dixie Highway and asked the whereabouts of one of the workers. When he could not find the person, he left and the business notified police and went on lockdown, Bouchard said.
“He told one worker, ‘I’m not looking for you,’ before he left,” Waterford Township Police Chief Scott Underwood said. “We have since interviewed the worker he had asked about who told us he had never had a cross word with (the suspect). It’s a mystery what angered him.”
After leaving Assured Trucking, the suspect allegedly fired upon a police car near Dixie Highway and Frembes Road and sideswiped a vehicle occupied by two women, knocked it on its side. Underwood said the two women suffered only minor injuries.
During an exchange of gunfire, Griffin received non-life-threatening wounds from a police shotgun blast, Bouchard said, was disarmed and taken into custody. Several 30-round magazines for the AK-47 were found inside the vehicle, which Bouchard said indicated to him that the suspect “was not through.”
The suspect was arrested and treated at an area hospital.
Taylor District Court records show Griffin was charged in December with assault with a deadly weapon and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in a November incident in which he allegedly threatened a man at the BSD Linehaul workplace with a gun.
No shots were fired in that November incident, and no one was injured.
Griffin was freed on $5,000 bond on the charges, which carry up to four years in prison including a mandatory two years for the firearm offense. A preliminary examination is pending.