TAYLOR, Mich. – A 45-year-old Sterling Heights man is due in court Monday afternoon for a preliminary hearing in the murder of his manager in Taylor.
Vernest James Griffin is charged with first-degree murder, carjacking, armed robbery and felony firearms violations in Wayne County. He also faces a first-degree murder charge and felony firearms violations in Oakland County.
The crime spree started Feb. 1 in Taylor when Griffin allegedly walked into the BSD Linehaul Inc. Trucking company building and opened fire, killing Keith Allen Kitchen, a manager of the business. Kitchen was 60.
Taylor police Chief John Blair said the man walked into the BSD Linehaul trucking company building near Pennsylvania Street and Telegraph Road.
"He was a disgruntled employee who had had problems previously at the location," Blair said. "It appears today he came back for some sort of vengeance."
Employees locked themselves in an officer upstairs and called 911.
Griffin was allegedly fired from BSD Linehaul Inc. before the shooting spree. Kitchen's niece, Brooke Bright, said Griffin came back to the business to receive $20 he was owed.
"He has ripped this family apart, we are broken at the moment," Bright said.
Police said Griffin was out on bond for assault with a dangerous weapon.
Suspect steals semi truck
After the shooting, Griffin allegedly ran outside and carjacked the driver of a semi truck, threatening him at gunpoint.
Police said he had an AK-47 and multiple 30-round magazines.
Police said Griffin drove the stolen semi truck to Pontiac.
Fatal shooting in Pontiac
An hour after the Taylor shooting, 911 calls started to come in from Aluminum Blanking Co. on West Sheffield Avenue in Pontiac.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the man went to searching for his former boss.
Eriberto Perez was working at his desk, with his back to the window when he was shot.
"He went right to an office window and shot the individual at his desk," Bouchard said.
Perez was 58.
Griffin is charged with first-degree murder in Perez's death.
Shootout with police
Griffin allegedly went to a third business, Assured Carriers Inc., in Waterford Township, and with his gun in hand, asked for a person who was not there. The company went on lockdown and police arrived minutes later.
Officers found Griffin at Williams Lake and Van Zandt roads. A gun battle ensued.
"They were behind him with their lights and sirens on, and he stopped the ruck, shot at them and got back in the truck and continued to flee, until the crash," Bouchard said.
The semi truck crashed at Frembes Road and Dixie Highway. Two young women were in the car he struck. they both suffered minor injuries.
Denise Lebke, who works at Bingo City nearby, saw the shootout.
"The semi was spinning out of control, and the driver of the semi decides he's going to get out on the passenger side of the vehicle," Lebke said. "He had an AK-47 gun and started shooting at the police officer behind him. The cops returned fire and he was on the ground."
Griffin was arrested and taken to the hospital. He was later arraigned on murder charges from a hospital bed.