PSP: Man accused of threatening government officials

A 71-year-old Lebanon man accused of threatening to kill government officials following President Joe Biden’s inauguration last month remains in Franklin County Jail this week.

man accused of threatening
Kenelm Shirk III

Kenelm L. Shirk III faces first-degree misdemeanor charges of making terroristic threats causing serious public inconvenience; and making terroristic threats with the intent of terrorizing others. Police allege in court documents that he threatened to kill government officials in Virginia and Washington, DC.

Shirk is an attorney with a law practice in Ephrata, Lebanon County.

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He was taken into custody at 8:45 p.m. Jan. 21 by Pennsylvania State Police troopers at a convenience store in Southampton Township on a mental health warrant.

Police from the Carlisle and Chambersburg barracks converged on the Sheetz convenience store on Old Scotland Road after receiving a Be on the Look Out (BOLO) from Cornwall Police Department in Lebanon County. Troopers were told Shirk’s cell phone had been pinged on I81 in Cumberland County.

Cornwall police reported Shirk was allegedly on his way to the D.C. area to kill government officials. He reportedly also threatened to kill his wife.

Troopers lined the Interstate in an effort to locate Shirk, according to an affidavit filed in the case.

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Taken into custody without incident

At about 8:45, troopers from both barracks converged on the convenience store where Shirk had been spotted. Shirk’s car was parked at a gas pump, but he was not in the car. Firearms and boxes of ammunition were in plain view in the back of the car, however.

Although Shirk had allegedly told his wife he would commit “suicide by cop” if he encountered police, he was taken into custody without incident. His vehicle was towed to the Chambersburg barracks. There police removed an assault rifle, revolver, pistol and a large quantity of ammunition were removed for safekeeping.

Shirk was taken to Chambersburg Hospital for evaluation on the mental health warrant.

At the hospital

Police later interviewed two nurses who interacted with Shirk in the hospital’s emergency room.

One told police Shirk seemed to be cooperative and didn’t talk about harming himself, but did tell her he knew his wife had completed the involuntary commitment documentation. When the nurse brought up the subject of harming another person, he told he would kill his wife, “but not today.” The comment was delivered in a monotone and “deadpan” voice, she told the trooper. She expressed concern about his thought processes and demeanor.

Another nurse interviewed as part of the investigation told police she was frightened by the time she and a doctor finished talking to him that night in the emergency room. She learned the incident was triggered by an argument between Shirk and his wife over the election; but told the trooper she felt that it was more than “just a guy who was having a bad day and was angry about the election.”

Shirk wanted his belongings and asked for his cell phone, she told police. She and the doctor checked his briefcase, which was brought into the emergency room with him.

Notifying the FBI

When they opened briefcase, looking for the cell phone, they found ammunition, around $5,000 in cash and a piece of paper with what appeared to be a “to do” list. One side of the paper had a list that included birthday presents for Shirk’s three-year-old granddaughter and similar everyday activities. The other side had the words “guns, ammo, rope, tools, meds, magazines.”

The nurse took a photo of the paper and talked to her supervisor, who told her to notify the FBI.

Instead of being committed to the mental health ward at Chambersburg Hospital, a local judge ordered Shirk held without bail at Franklin County Jail, “to protect the public.”

Shirk’s Monday preliminary hearing has been postponed until Feb. 8.

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