Vandergrift policeman remembered for honesty, love of family

posted Jun 13, 2018, 4:12 AM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Jun 13, 2018, 4:13 AM ]


Vandergrift police Officer Bob Kirkland, 2015.
File photo
Vandergrift police Officer Bob Kirkland, 2015.

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Robert Kirkland is remembered as a faithful police officer and family man.Kirkland, 44, of Vandergrift and for many years Lower Burrell, died Friday in Allegheny General Hospital where he was taken after becoming ill.

He was a police officer in Vandergrift for 21 years.

He was a son, husband and father who understood honor and responsibility, fellow officers said.

In 2008, when a part-time officer's infant daughter needed surgery, Kirkland organized a fundraiser.

When the name of Lower Burrell Patrolman Derrick Kotecki was added to the wall at the national police museum in 2012, Kirkland and his family were there with other Alle-Kiski Valley officers.

He was a part of the Attorney General's drug task force and was active with the Lower Burrell volunteer fire company and emergency services.

Vandergrift municipal flags are flying at half-mast in honor of Kirkland.

Mayor Barbara Turiak said the borough was stunned by the death . “We are a family and the family will truly miss him,” she said.

“He was always truthful and you could always count on him,” Vandergrift Sgt. Anthony DePanicis said.

“I am broken hearted. I remember the day he started. I spent a lot of time with him. He was very close to his family. He was the most honest officer I have ever met.”

Kirkland preferred watching his sons play sports rather than any professional games, DePanicis said.He said Kirkland was a responsible man who earned his own way. Kirkland started part-time for the Vandergrift department. “He worked part-time for a tool and die company until he was hired full-time,” DePanicis added.

Officers from neighboring police departments said they knew and liked Kirkland.

“The members of the Lower Burrell Police Department were saddened to hear about the passing of Officer Kirkland. He was a well liked and respected member of the local law enforcement community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones,” Chief Tim Weitzel said.

Allegheny Township police Sgt. Dan Uncapher also worked with Kirkland.“He was an all-around good person. He was a good officer and very much a family man. He is missed.”

Kirkland is survived by his parents, James and Patricia Kirkland of Lower Burrell, wife, Vicki Lyn Margita Kirkland, two sons, Connor and Cooper Kirkland at home, brother James (Karrie) Kirkland of Norwalk, Ohio, sister Nancy (Joseph) Bielata of New Kensington, and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.

Friends will be received Monday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Rusiewicz of Lower Burrell Funeral Home, 3124 Leechburg Road.

A funeral service will be held there Tuesday at 11 a.m. by the Rev. Harold Mele. Burial will be private.

The FOP Lodge 39 will conduct services at 6 p.m. Monday in the funeral home.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

Vandergrift looks to counsel, not just prosecute, vandals

posted May 21, 2018, 4:36 AM by Joseph Gray


Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review

Coming up

Who: Vandergrift's Community Watch

What: Meeting on dealing with solutions to youth vandalism

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Vandergrift borough building, 109 Grant Ave. Vandergrift, Pa. 15690

Details: Facebook page “It's your community Vandergrift"

Rather than focus on punishment for juveniles throwing rocks at cars and other vandalism, Vandergrift's Community Watch is asking residents to help at-risk local youth.

The public is invited to the Community Watch meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the borough building, 151 Lincoln Ave.

The meeting will feature the Westmoreland County Youth Commission, which promotes intervention and community volunteers to mentor at-risk youth.

“We want residents to know that there's more out there besides catching and fining the kids,” said Marilee Kessler, a Vandergrift resident and coordinator of Community Watch, an effort led by borough police and the Vandergrift Improvement Program.

There has been a spate of youth vandalism and other nonviolent crimes in the past few months, according to Vandergrift police Officer Joe Gray.

“These are isolated incidents involving a small group,” he said. “The kids of Vandergrift are really good kids,” Gray added.

• Kids throwing rocks at cars on East Vandergrift Lane in the last two weeks. No one has been injured, but cars have been damaged. Police are investigating.

• Spray-paint graffiti, mostly nondescript, in more than a dozen locations in Vandergrift, East Vandergrift and Apollo. Police solved the case as some of the suspects spray-painted their own names. Four teenage boys were cited and fined for criminal mischief.

• Police have identified three boys breaking a bench in Kennedy Park as the action was caught on a video camera. They have not cited them yet, according to Gray.

“There is a small group of kids who feel that they don't have to answer to anyone and they're frustrated and kind of having fun,” said Kessler, whose garage door was spray-painted by one of the vandals.

“People try to keep their properties nice and kids don't seem to understand,” she said.

Kessler who is a Realtor, added, “if there's a lot of vandalism, people will think twice about wanting to relocate here, she said.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

Vandergrift woman injured in crash

posted May 21, 2018, 4:32 AM by Joseph Gray   [ updated May 21, 2018, 4:32 AM ]



A 28-year-old Vandergrift woman was thrown from the vehicle she was driving during a Tuesday evening crash along that involved two vehicles and three parked cars, police said.

Patrolman Mark Lieu said the woman, whom police would not identify, was driving at a high rate of speed on Hancock Avenue when another vehicle pulled out at Madison Avenue at about 8 p.m.

Lieu said the woman's vehicle was flipped over and the woman, who wasn't wearing a seat belt, was thrown out of her vehicle.

“She landed under a parked vehicle,” he said.EMS crews removed her from there and drove her to Forbes Hospital, Monroeville.

Lieu said she had facial and abdominal injuries.

The other driver wasn't taken to a hospital.

The woman's condition was unknown Friday morning.Lieu said the investigation continues. Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

Motorcyclist injured in hit and run crash in Vandergrift

posted May 4, 2018, 7:39 PM by Joseph Gray   [ updated May 4, 2018, 7:41 PM ]

Mary Ann Thomas
Mary Ann Thomas | Friday, May 4, 2018, 4:39 p.m.


Vandergrift Police say they are looking for a driver that hit a man on a motorcycle and then fled the scene Wednesday.

Police found the motorcyclist conscious and alert on a sidewalk in front of Solomon's mini market in the 600 block of Hancock Avenue shortly after 5 p.m., according to police Sgt. Anthony DePanicis.

The victim was hit while driving east on Walnut Street when a newer burgundy Ford Focus coming from the opposing direction, tried to make a left onto Hancock and hit the motorcyclist, DePanicis said.

The driver, a white middle-aged woman with blonde and gray hair in a bun, stopped and got out of her car, spoke to the motorcyclist and a witness, then fled the scene, police said.

Police are still looking for the driver and ask the public to call them with any details at 724-568-5507.

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4691, or via Twitter @MaThomas_Trib.

2017 Caps for Kids & Adopt a Family Project.

posted Jan 9, 2018, 3:07 PM by Joseph Gray   [ updated Jan 10, 2018, 7:21 PM ]

A special thank you from the Vandergrift Police Department for making these projects such a success.

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” - Jane Goodall

585 hats were given to the children that attend Kiski Area School District (East Primary).

In addition SEVEN families were able to have a Christmas dinner for their children, and toys to open from Santa.

Thanks to the following:

























Fire displaces Vandergrift family of 3, no one hurt

posted Oct 27, 2017, 10:37 PM by Joseph Gray


Firefghters battle a blaze at the scene of a house fire on Custer Avenue in Vandergrift on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.
Chuck Biedka | Tribune-Review
Firefghters battle a blaze at the scene of a house fire on Custer Avenue in Vandergrift on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017.

Firefighters at first feared someone was trapped inside a Vandergrift house Friday night.

Fortunately, Danielle Rago, the only person in the house on Custer Street, was able to get out without injury. No firefighters or police were injured either.

Vandergrift No. 1 Fire Chief Randy Dunmire said thick smoke was encountered on the first and second floors of the brick house, which is along a row of tightly packed houses.

Rago said she was doing laundry in the basement when she went upstairs and saw smoke. She called Westmoreland County 911 just after 7:30 p.m.

Two of Rago's relatives who live with her weren't home.

The fire was found in a second-floor front bedroom, Dunmire said, and volunteers from the Vandergrift, Parks and West Leechburg departments went to work.

When Dunmire entered the house, he saw “heavy fire and burning into the walls.”

Firefighters were able to quench the flames within about 30 minutes.

There was an unknown amount of interior damage, and some plastic molding was melted on the front porch. Windows that faced the front street were broken and the window sills were covered with soot.

Firefighters managed to keep the flames away from neighboring houses less than 4 feet away, but there was a good bit of smoke, said Sue Baillie, who has lived next door for 17 years.

A state police deputy fire marshal will look at the damage Saturday, Dunmire said.

Rago will be assisted by relatives and the American Red Cross, he added.

Dunmire and some members of the George G. McMurtry Fire Department 1 were only about 400 yards away from the burning house when they were summoned to their firehouse on Franklin Avenue.

They were attending the last Kiski Area High School game at Davis Field.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

Vandergrift man, 47, accused of sexually assaulting a child

posted Oct 27, 2017, 8:40 PM by Joseph Gray


David Cook
Courtesy of the Westmoreland County Prison
David Cook

A Vandergrift man is accused of sexually assaulting an Alle-Kiski Valley child last July.

On Monday, David Shawn Cook, 47, was arraigned by District Judge Cheryl Peck Yakopec. She ordered him held in the Westmoreland County Prison in lieu of straight $50,000 bond pending an Oct. 31 preliminary hearing.

Cook is facing 11 charges.

Police say the assault happened July 13 in a bathroom.

Arrest papers were filed Aug. 31, but according to court records, Cook wasn't found until Sunday. He has been jailed since then as he awaits the hearing.

According to court records, Cook, of Sumner Avenue, has been fined or served county jail sentences for crimes including promoting prostitution, having drugs, harassment and assault in the county.

According to the state Department of Corrections, Cook entered a state prison on Sept. 19, 1995 to serve two to four years for drugs in Westmoreland County.

He was paroled about 2 12 years later.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

Vandergrift police arrest 2 suspects after finding 2 pounds of marijuana

posted Sep 26, 2017, 2:28 PM by Joseph Gray

Vandergrift police allege two men were selling marijuana from a Lowell Street house. Police on Sunday confiscated two pounds of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and a shotgun.
Courtesy of Vandergrift Police
Vandergrift police allege two men were selling marijuana from a Lowell Street house. Police on Sunday confiscated two pounds of marijuana, drug paraphernalia and a shotgun.

A Vandergrift patrolman at first used his nose to find drugs in a Lowell Street house early Sunday.

The officer was investigating a call about possible drugs first smelled smoke, and then marijuana, along the 200 block of Lowell Street, police said.

Sgt. Tony DePanicis said the patrolman, Jared Kepple, smelled marijuana smoke at about 1 a.m. Sunday when driving to the house.

As Kepple and his partner, Joseph Albaugh, walked up on the porch from where the smoke was emanating through an open window, police say they could see into the house. People inside apparently were hiding what appeared to be drugs, DePanicis said.

“One of the officers detained the three people inside and the other officer went for a search warrant,” DiPanicis said.

Once a district judge issued the warrant, the officers searched the house.

DiPanicis said the officers found two pounds of marijuana, a 12-gauge shotgun and drug paraphernalia.

Ronald A. McManus III, 22, who was living at the address, and Drew A. Lamison, 29, of Chamberlain Street, Leechburg, are accused of having marijuana with intent of selling it. They are also charged with having drug paraphernalia and illegal drug possession.

A third person was detained temporarily but not charged.

McManus and Lamison were arraigned and their bonds were set at $5,000 each.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for McManus and Lamison by District Judge Cheryl Peck Yakopec on Oct. 3.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

SUV goes over Vandergrift hillside with 2-year-old inside

posted Aug 8, 2017, 7:46 PM by Joseph Gray

Joe Gray | Vandergrift Police Department
A 2-year-old boy got out of this SUV unharmed despite being unrestrained inside when it went 100 to 150 feet down a hillside toward railroad tracks in Vandergrift on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017.

A 2-year-old boy was “as happy as could be” after getting out of an SUV that was destroyed when it went over a Vandergrift hillside Tuesday afternoon, borough police said.

“I don't know how he didn't get hurt,” Officer Joe Gray said. “Thank God he's OK.”

The child was playing inside the 1996 Chevrolet Blazer while his mother was cleaning it out around 3:30 p.m. behind a house in the 200 block of Sherman Avenue.

At one point, the vehicle's gearshift was put into “Drive.”

It rolled out of the driveway, across First Street, and 100 to 150 feet down a hill toward railroad tracks, Gray said.

The 30-year-old mother, who name was not released, saw the car starting to move as she walked away from it.

She was run over and dragged when she tried to get in to stop it.

The SUV ultimately wedged between two trees at the bottom of the hill, Gray said.

“The little guy — I don't know how he did it — but he was able to get out of the vehicle, and it was completely destroyed,” Gray said. “He had no bumps, no bruises, no scrapes. He was as happy as could be.”

Despite her injuries, the boy's mother and a neighbor went down the hill to get the boy.

The woman suffered minor abrasions and bruises and was complaining of back pain, Gray said.

Both mother and child went to Allegheny Valley Hospital in Harrison to be checked out, Gray said. She went by ambulance.

Gray said the keys were in the SUV's ignition, but was not turned on, or in the accessory position.

Its column-mounted shifter was in Drive, and the child was the only one inside.

Gray said police would have a mechanic examine the SUV to check its transmission and safety systems to try to figure out why it rolled away like it did.

Norfolk Southern was notified and the railroad tracks were shut down for about an hour, Gray said. There was no damage to the tracks.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, or on Twitter @BCRittmeyer

Vandergrift police ID couple involved in shooting

posted Jul 20, 2017, 9:30 PM by Joseph Gray

Chuck Biedka | Thursday, July 20, 2017, 12:45 p.m.
Emily Balser | Tribune-Review
Police investigate the scene of an apparent shooting on Grant Avenue in Vandergrift on Wednesday, July 19, 2017.

Authorities said Thursday a young mother underwent surgery for three bullet wounds she received Wednesday night in her residence along Grant Avenue in Vandergrift.

Chloe C. Kruse, 28, of Grant Avenue was listed in critical condition at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville as of Thursday night.

Police said Ronald J. Prettyman, 32, who was Kruse's boyfriend, also is in critical condition after he wounded himself.

Prettyman had lived with Kruse until they split several months ago, and was living elsewhere in the borough, Vandergrift police Chief Joe Caporali said.

Police said four gunshots were heard just after 6:30 p.m. Wednesday along Grant Avenue. Kruse was shot three times in her abdomen, and Prettyman allegedly shot himself in the head, police said.

Caporali said the couple was separated but he frequently visited the residence to see their three children, ages 1 to 5.

The argument happened on the second floor of the residence. Police found a .380-caliber pistol.

Kruse's mother was inside the house at the time of the shooting and was taking care of the children.

Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.

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