Kenelm Shirk

Kenelm L. Shirk III, 71, an Ephrata attorney, is charged with making terroristic threats to shoot government officials around Washington, D.C. Pennsylvania State Police arrested him Jan. 21. as he was headed south on Interstate 81.

The Ephrata lawyer accused of threatening to kill government officials in the Washington, DC, area had the means to do it, according to police documents detailing his arrest.

In their Jan. 21 search of a car belonging to Kenelm L Shirk III, state police found an AR-15 rifle, two handguns, “a large quantity of ammunition” (including 30 rounds of .380 bullets), rope, gloves and about $5,000 in several rolls of $50 bills. The items were found after Shirk was arrested at a Sheetz near Shippensburg.

Police detained Shirk after his wife called to report that her husband had threatened her life and was planning to attack government officials in the nation’s capital.

A nurse who did a mental evaluation of the 71 year old after his arrest told police Shirk sounded serious when he spoke of killing his wife and others. If Shirk followed through with his plan, she said, “She did not want to see it on the news and feel like she was responsible.”

Shirk, the longtime solicitor for Akron Borough, has been in Franklin County Jail since Jan. 22 without bail on two counts of terroristic threats. He is being represented by an attorney with the Franklin County Public Defender’s office, which declined comment; messages left at his Ephrata law office weren’t returned Monday and Tuesday.

Akron officials cut ties with Shirk at their meeting Monday night and hired an interim solicitor.

Arrest and evaluation

Police in Cornwall, Lebanon County, where Shirk lives, had issued a bulletin about 8:20 p.m. Jan. 21, according to charging documents. 

The bulletin was related to his wife seeking his involuntary commitment following an argument about the election. It’s not clear from the documents when that argument happened.

State police then pinged Shirk’s phone to determine his location and stationed troopers along Interstate 81 south to intercept him.

At about 8:25 p.m., police surrounded his silver 2020 Subaru Forester at the Sheetz gas pumps and took him into custody when he returned to his vehicle. 

Police took Shirk to WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital for an evaluation related to the involuntary commitment.

When a staffer asked him about hurting someone, Shirk “made a statement to the effect of that he would kill his wife, but not today” in a monotonous and deadpan tone, according to documents.

Shirk told a nurse that he planned to stop at his son’s house in Alexandria, Virginia, to drop off a present for his granddaughter. He also told her “he had to get up early enough to beat traffic and make it to the government officials’ houses before they left for work in the city,” the document said.

The nurse told police she’d been in the medical field more than 16 years but found Shirk’s behavior to be especially disconcerting.

The nurse told police “she had a strong gut feeling and instinct that this was more than just a guy who was having a bad day and angry about the election. ... Shirk made comments about shooting government officials in their front yard. This along with his comments about not being afraid to die made her afraid.”

The nurse also found 50, quarter-sized plastic crosses in a bag in Shirk’s briefcase.

“... it was almost as if Shirk intended to leave them at his crime scene(s),” the nurse told police, according to the documents.

The nurse told police that she had notified the FBI after coming across a to-do list in Shirk’s briefcase and an FBI agent came to the hospital, according to the document. On one side was a list detailing activities such as the birthday present, on the other side was a list: “Guns, ammo, ropes, tools, meds, magazines,” according to the charging document.

When the trooper asked the nurse if there was anything else, she said that while the FBI agent was present, Shirk said he didn’t want anyone searching his phone and hoped no one checked his Amazon account.

An FBI spokeswoman on Tuesday declined comment when asked about its involvement, saying the police charging documents speak for themselves.

Shirks’ preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 8 before Chambersburg District Judge Glenn Manns.

Shirk comes from a family with a history of community service and political involvement. His father, K.L. Shirk, who died in 2006, was an attorney and long active in the county’s Republican party, serving as chairman of the party from 1964-71. Shirk’s grandfather was Lancaster County’s district attorney.

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