Rebecca Kelley said for those who knew her brother-in-law, what he did Sunday afternoon should come as no surprise.
Vince (Vinny) Kelley was shot and killed after jumping into the back seat of a car as he tried to stop the robber who held up the Citizens Bank inside Giant Eagle at Strabane Square, South Strabane Township.
Kelley and his friend, Jared Cameron, were inside the store when they heard a woman scream and saw the robber jump back over the counter and head for the door closest to the store’s pharmacy. Kelley and Cameron, among others, followed the man outside. Kelley continued the chase even after the robber turned and pointed a gun at his pursuers.
Cameron said Kelley had jumped in the back seat of the robber’s car and was reaching for his knife when he was shot. Kelley fell out of the open car door as the robber fled around the back of the store.
“When I married into this family, I learned what a big heart the brothers all had,” said Rebecca Kelley, who is married to Vinny’s brother, Mark Kelley. “Sometimes you have to say ‘no,’ but he didn’t know how to do that, and this is where it got him.
“Nobody was surprised what he did,” she added. “What he did Sunday, had he survived, he probably wouldn’t have thought twice about doing it again.”
Rebecca Kelley said her brother-in-law lived for his family and friends. His daughter, Sierra Kelley, and her 1-month-old son, Romeo Porter, meant the world to him. She said his daughter and other family members have yet to grasp their loss.
“His brothers are besides themselves,” she said. “He was the oldest, and they looked up to him. He was their hero. When their father died 14 years ago, he became the father figure in their lives.”
Kelley traveled a lot with his job in the gas industry. Instead of paying rent or mortgage on a place of his own, he would stay with family and friends when he was back home.
Motorcycle riding was his second love, said his sister-in-law. Kelley was involved with the Brothers of the Hammer club and had been planning to go with them on a ride to Johnstown.
Family, friends and his motorcycle were not Kelley’s only interests.
“Two or three nights a week, he was up at Pancake Skate 'n’ Whirl, volunteering to teach kids how to roller skate,” said his sister-in-law. “He also loved to dance.”
Kelley gave himself the nickname, “Mystro.”
South Strabane police Detectives Ken Torboli and Michael Schidlmeier continue to review video surveillance from businesses in the area, including those at Strabane Square and Trinity Point.
“All the businesses are being cooperative with us,” Torboli said.
Schidlmeier said the robber used an open umbrella to shield himself as he robbed the teller.
“He was well-versed in the layout of the store and bank,” Torboli said. “He was conscious of the placement of the cameras.”
Torboli said South Strabane police continue to work with the FBI and state police, but as yet there is no confirmed link between Sunday’s robbery and any other holdup in the area. The robber is about 5 feet 9 inches or 5 feet 10 inches tall. He wore a straw hat to mask his appearance.
While the FBI and state police are using their resources to help locate the robber’s vehicle, the detectives still want to hear from anyone who may have encountered an erratically driven white, four-door car in the area about 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The car was well-maintained, but police are not certain of the year, make or model. The car went around the back of the Giant Eagle before traveling down the access road and Route 19, where it headed south in the direction of Interstate 70.
Anyone who might have seen the vehicle or has any other information is asked to call township police at 724-225-8111.
A vigil held Monday night at the request of Kelley’s daughter was a reality check for the family, said Rebecca Kelley.
“It just showed how much the man was loved,” she said. “And that means a lot.”
A friend and fellow member of the Brothers of the Hammer will ride Kelley’s Kawasaki Vulcan Mean Streak motorcycle in his funeral procession Thursday.