Cops: Spree gunman involved in November firearm threat
Pontiac – The man suspected of killing two people in workplace shootings in Taylor and Pontiac was involved in a firearm incident at the Taylor site in November, authorities said Friday.
Vernest James Griffin, 45, of Sterling Heights, was arrested and hospitalized Thursday after shootings that killed Keith Kitchen, 60, who was employed at BSD Linehaul in Taylor, and Eriberto Perez, 58, of Waterford Township, at Aluminum Blanking in Pontiac.
Taylor Police Chief John Blair said Griffin was involved in an incident Nov. 24 at BSD Linehaul.
Taylor District Court records show the suspect was charged in December with assault with a deadly weapon and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony after allegedly threatening a man at the Taylor business with a gun.
No shots were fired in that November incident and no one was injured. The suspect was freed on $5,000 bond on the charges which carry up to four years in prison and a mandatory two years for the firearms offense. An preliminary examination is pending.
Griffin remains hospitalized and is not expected to immediately be charged with any crimes, authorities said.
He is expected to be charged eventually with multiple offenses, including two fatal shootings, exchanging gunfire with police, theft of a truck at gunpoint and causing an accident which left two motorists with minor injuries.
“We had two tragedies but there could have been many more,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, who noted the suspect 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.
The suspect, described as in critical but stable condition, is expected to recover from his wounds and be arraigned on various charges next week, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office reported Friday.
From all accounts, the suspect is believed to have targeted certain people for death and neither threatened nor shot at other co-workers at businesses in Taylor, Pontiac and Waterford Township. Bouchard said the suspect appeared to have a “hit list in his mind.”
It all began in Taylor in Wayne County about 10:30 a.m. Thursday when the suspect, an ex-worker at BSD Linehaul Inc., entered his former workplace on Pennsylvania Road near Telegraph Road with an intent to target one of the employees, police said.
Taylor police dispatched to the business found one man dead at the scene of a gunshot wound and the suspect on the run, apparently after he allegedly stole a white 2016 semi-tractor trailer cab at gunpoint and sped off.
The suspect then drove to Aluminum Blanking Co. on W. Sheffield in Pontiac, where another shooting took place inside that building at 11:37 a.m.
The victim, Eriberto Perez, 58, of Waterford Township, was shot multiple times in the back as he was sitting at a desk, Bouchard said. The suspect then left the building, again, passing up other workers whom – for still unknown reasons – he did not threaten or attack.
About 12:30 p.m., the suspect 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 under a lockdown, Bouchard said.
“He told one worker – ‘I’m not looking for you,’” before he left,” said Waterford Township Police Chief Scott Underwood. “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, knocking it on its side. Underwood said the two women suffered only minor injuries.
During an exchange of gunfire, the suspect received non-life-threatening wounds from a police shotgun blast, Bouchard said, and 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 he suspect “was not through.”