Man to stand trial in workplace fatal shooting

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Employees at a Taylor trucking company gave harrowing accounts Monday of a fatal shooting incident that left their boss dead and a former co-worker facing murder charges in a workplace shooting.

Vernest James Griffin, 45, of Sterling Heights is accused of killing Keith Kitchen, 60, who worked at BSD Linehaul in Taylor on Feb. 1. Griffin also is charged with killing Eriberto Perez, 58, of Waterford Township at Aluminum Blanking Co. in Pontiac.

Patrice Emery Lumumba described being horrified as he ran for his life during the shooting Feb. 1 at the trucking company Griffin worked at until November. Witnesses said Griffin had an AK-47 assault rifle.

Lumumba said Griffin asked for the keys to the truck Lumumba was about to drive and pointed a gun at him.

Lumumba said Griffin had a long gun in his hand after leaving Kitchen’s office. Lumumba said he tried to diffuse the situation and asked Griffin how he was doing. He said Griffin opened the door and tried to shoot him.

Lumumba said he fled from the truck and hid.

“He took my truck and he tried to chase me,” said Lumumba as Kitchen’s family members in the courtroom looked on. “I was hiding under my truck.”

Lumumba pointed Griffin out as the man he saw with the gun and who chased him. Lumumba, who started working for the trucking company in January, said he never met Griffin before.

Besides Lumumba, other co-workers testified to hearing the shots that killed Kitchen and seeing Griffin with a gun.

Shaun Fondren said Griffin pointed a gun at him and asked him for keys to his (work) truck.

The witnesses did not go into detail during questioning from Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor William Lawrence or defense attorney Rene Cooper about what led to the fatal shooting.

Griffin allegedly then drove to Oakland County, where he allegedly shot and killed Perez. The victim was shot multiple times in the back as he sat at his desk at the Aluminum Blanking on West Sheffield in Pontiac about 11:37 a.m.

About 12:30 p.m. the same day, Griffin allegedly 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. The business notified police and went under a lock down, said Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

“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.”

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.”

Taylor police Chief John Blair said Griffin had been involved in an incident Nov. 24 at BSD Linehaul.

23rd 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.

Griffin was ordered by 23rd District Court Judge Geno Salomone on Monday to stand trial in the Kitchen homicide. He is due back in court in the Taylor case April 23 in Wayne County Circuit Court.

In the Oakland County case, Griffin is due back in court next month.

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