South Strabane police searching for answers

June 17, 2013
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A bank surveillance photo shows the man who robbed Citizens Bank inside the Giant Eagle in Strabane Square, then shot to death a Washington man who pursued him.
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
A candle is lit in memory of Vincent Kelley who was killed yesterday at the Citizens Bank inside Giant Eagle in South Strabane Township. A vigil was held outside of the store Monday night to honor Kelley. At left, a bank surveillance photo shows the robbery suspect. Order a Print

Jared Cameron said he had only known Vincent Kelley for about six weeks after he started dating Kelley’s niece, but he said the 46-year-old Washington man welcomed him into the family.

Now Cameron, along with Kelley’s family and friends, are mourning the Good Samaritan’s shooting death after a robbery Sunday afternoon at the Citizens Bank branch inside Giant Eagle at Strabane Square as South Strabane Township police continue to look for the suspect.

Cameron said he and Kelley were at the store near the bank when they heard a scream and saw the suspect hop over the counter and run toward the door. The two chased the robber out the door near the pharmacy.

“When we got outside, the robber turned and pointed a gun at us,” Cameron said. “Vinny didn’t stop, he kept going.”

The robber ran to his car, which he had parked along the lot closest to Berry Road. When the robber got into the front seat, Kelley jumped into the back seat and started struggling with the suspect.

“Vinny started reaching for a knife that he had behind him when the guy just reached back without looking and pulled the trigger,” said Cameron, who was standing 10 to 15 feet away. “The robber backed up. The back door was still open, and Vinny fell out as the robber sped away.”

Police said the pack of red dye from the bank exploded inside the car.

Kelley was pronounced dead at Washington Hospital about 30 minutes after he was shot. Washington County Coroner Tim Warco said Kelley died of multiple gunshot wounds.

Cameron said Kelley would give anyone the shirt off his back.

“When I started dating his niece, he immediately accepted me into the family,” Cameron said. “He didn’t judge anyone and treated everyone equally.”

Kelley and Cameron were both members of a motorcycle group, Brothers of the Hammer. Kelley rode a 1500cc Kawasaki Vulcan Mean Streak.

“He did charity rides,” Cameron said. “We were both supposed to go to the Thunder in the Valley ride this weekend in Johnstown.

“He also took part in the kids’ day at the LeMoyne Center,” he added. “He’d take his bike up to the center and let the kids sit on it and take pictures.”

Township police Chief Don Zofchak said Monday afternoon that investigators have no new information on the robbery turned murder. Police continue to look for a white, four-door Honda Accord. Zofchak said they are running all possibilities with the partial numbers and digits of the license plate given by witnesses.

The robber fled by driving behind the grocery store and then sped in the direction of Route 19, Zofchak said.

“It went flying down the hill,” the chief said of the suspect’s vehicle. “We have witnesses that saw the white car.”

Police continue to look at surveillance video from nearby businesses.

Township and state police searched the median of Interstate 70 between the Murtland Avenue interchange and north junction of Interstate 79 for what Zofchak described as “possible evidence.” The chief declined to give specifics of what police were looking for, but believed nothing had been found.

Zofchak urged anyone who might have been in the store or in the area of Strabane Square to call them at 724-225-8111 if they saw anything that could be involved with the shooting and robbery.

“Even if you don’t think what you saw is significant, call,” Zofchak said.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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