PITTSBURGH – A man who killed three people in a tiny central Pennsylvania village before being fatally shot by troopers in a gun battle last month owned several more guns and ammunition and was concerned with the end of the world, according to a police search warrant filed with the courts.
Jeffrey Lee Michael, 44, “was warning people that the end of the world was coming” the day before the shooting, the 19-year-old son of the man’s live-in girlfriend told police, according to the warrant. The teenager told police he was scared of Michael, who asked him “if he reads the Bible and asked him if he was saved.”
Officials say Michael fatally shot two neighbors and a woman decorating a nearby church hall before slamming his truck into a police cruiser and dying in an exchange of gunfire with state police Dec. 21 in Frankstown Township, about 70 miles west of Harrisburg. Hours later, troopers got the warrant to search Michael’s vehicles and home. The Altoona Mirror first reported the contents of the warrant Thursday, which was filed two days earlier with the Blair County prothonotary.
According to the warrant, police found a Mossburg shotgun, a Carl Gustafs rifle and a .22-caliber Marlin long rifle, a Glock pistol and dozens of live rounds along with a stun gun, and four folding knives.
State police Cpl. Ken Butler said an internal state police investigation and a separate review by District Attorney Richard Consiglio have determined the police shooting was justified, and the only remaining question is how Michael got the weapons.
Michael was separated from his wife and living with Brenda Shultz, 51, and her son, Lance, but had been under a protection-from-abuse order obtained by his wife in February 2010. If he obtained the guns while under the court order – or otherwise illegally – those who supplied the weapons could be charged criminally, Butler told the AP Thursday. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was helping trace the weapons, Butler said.
The warrant also details the day’s deadly chain of events.
It began when Rose Lynn called 911 to report her husband, 60-year-old Kenneth Lynn, had been shot at their residence, a few doors down from Michael’s. Michael then drove to Juniata Valley Gospel Church and fatally shot 58-year-old church volunteer Kimberly Scott, who was decorating a social hall for a children’s Christmas party.
As he drove away, Michael crashed his truck into an oncoming pickup driven by Kenneth Lynn’s son-in-law, William Rhodes Jr., 38, before fatally shooting him.
A short time later, Michael fired at Troopers David Nazaruk and Timothy Strohmyer as they passed his truck. They then chased Michael’s truck before it slammed into a cruiser driven by Cpl. Kevin Campbell.
Police haven’t detailed the ensuing gun battle, but Consiglio said Campbell didn’t fire shots because he was trapped in his car and injured. Michael had gotten out of his vehicle and fired at the other two troopers who were chasing him and was within “point-blank” distance of shooting Campbell when the other troopers fired, Consiglio said.
Campbell has recovered from his crash injuries and the other troopers – one of whom was shot in the wrist – also have returned to work, Butler said.
Despite his fixation on the apocalypse, Butler said there’s no evidence Michael targeted specific victims or planned the killings. Michael was acquainted with Lynn and Rhodes but didn’t know Scott, Butler said.
“There was nobody that he indicated to – not even the closest of people – he never told anybody about a desire to harm someone,” Butler said.
Other friends have previously said Michael’s end-times obsession appeared to get worse after a woman reportedly stepped in front of his tractor-trailer in an apparent suicide in 2009, and another fatal wreck involving his truck in March.
Shultz told police Michael “was having a hard time dealing with” the second fatality, in particular, the warrant said.
Although Michael couched his comments with Biblical references, Butler said the gunman hadn’t been known to attend church for years.
“It seems like from interviews (with family and friends) that he kind of mixed a little bit of different type of views together, anti-government, or whatever, on the one hand, and religious,” Butler said. “If he had been an entirely religious man, he wouldn’t have taken the stance on the end times that he did.”
Shultz and her son didn’t immediately return a call Thursday.