County resident Kenelm L. Shirk was indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 3 after he was found driving to Washington D.C. with the alleged intent to murder U.S. Senators.
Shirk was arrested and charged by the Pennsylvania State Police on Jan. 21 after he was found en route to Washington D.C. with an AR-15 rifle, two handguns, rope, and ammunition. Shirk plead not guilty in his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab on Feb. 9 and now awaits an April 5 trial without bail.
Shirk lives in Lebanon County near Cornwall but works as an attorney in Ephrata, Lancaster County. He is 71 years old.
Shirk originally faced Pennsylvania state criminal charges, but those charges have been withdrawn and replaced with a federal criminal charge of “Threatening to Murder a United States Official.” That charge is a Level 4 federal felony, and carries a maximum possible jail sentence of 20 years.
The allegations against Shirk were made by his ex-wife, who stated that he had threatened to kill her and Democratic US Senators after the two had an argument about the presidential election. An alert from the Cornwall Police Department was sent out prior to his arrest, which claimed that Shirk had planned “suicide by cop” if he was stopped. He was arrested without incident about two hours north of Washington at a gas station near Shippensburg.
According to the Associated Press, after Shirk was arrested and taken to a hospital for an “emergency mental health evaluation,” he made comments to a nurse regarding the need to wake up early to “beat traffic” and reach the homes of senators before they left for work. His briefcase contained 30 ammunition rounds, $5,000 in cash, rubber gloves, and a bag of about 50 plastic crosses.
An attorney for Shirk, Jay Abom, stated on Wednesday that, “[d]espite appearances and accusations, he never intended to hurt or kill anyone.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime M. Keating is the prosecutor on the case.
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