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EAST FRANKLIN,PA -- A 7-hour manhunt for an escaped Armstrong County Jail inmate early Wednesday morning, came to a dramatic finale when, following a 100 mph-plus pursuit by police, the escapee shot himself in a stolen vehicle alongside busy Route 28 at the Tarentum exit.
Lt. Thomas Dubovi, commander of the state police station at East Franklin, said the events started when jail guards transported Kenny Dale Nulph, 44, of Kittanning from the jail in Rayburn to ACMH Hospital because he complained of stomach pain.
Nulph was given a brief examination by emergency room physician Dr. Curtis Peterson. About 12:30 a.m., Nulph asked to go to the restroom. It was then that he attacked one of the two guards escorting him and, after a brief struggle, wrested a .357 Magnum revolver away from the guard.
Nulph fired a shot from the revolver that went through a wall in the emergency room and struck a strobe light used to alert the deaf to fire alarms. He then ran from the building into the fog and darkness.
A short time later, police believe, Nulph stole a 1996 Jeep Cherokee from a nearby home along Pleasant View Drive. He was not seen again until about 7 a.m. when he pulled into a gas station in Cadogan to get gasoline and drove off without paying.
Dubovi said police were prohibited from putting search helicopters in the air because of a dense fog but had a number of patrol cars out searching for Nulph. Several area municipal police agencies as well as Armstrong County Sheriff Larry Crawford and members of the sheriff's department aided in the search and subsequent chase.
Police even requested the use of thermal imaging cameras from four local fire departments, The cameras, used in firefighting to detect heat sources, would have aided police in their search for Nulph.
Dubovi said that shortly after 7 a.m. "an alert citizen," Thomas E. Johnson, 63, of South Buffalo Township, who was driving on the Cadogan-Slate Lick Road spotted the suspect's vehicle and called police on a cell phone to report that he was directly behind the vehicle.
Dubovi said state police patrol cars converged and a pursuit began in dense fog, and at times, reached speeds in excess of 100 mph.
He said that the chase began at the Butler and Armstrong County line and continued south just past the Pittsburgh Mills shopping mall where police had set up road blocks. At one point, a state police vehicle attempted a "pit maneuver" stop by bumping the back end of the suspect's vehicle. However, the attempt failed and the police car ran off the roadway and was damaged. The trooper was not injured.
Dubovi said when Nulph saw the roadblocks he drove the vehicle through the grass median and headed back north. Police farther north on Route 28 were able to set out spike strips which blew out the vehicle's tires.
"After the (Jeep's) tires were flattened by the spike strips, the suspect continued to drive a short distance on tire rims to the Tarentum exit," Dubovi said. "He drove through an intersection and onto a grassy spot and stopped. When pursuing troopers arrived on the scene they heard a single gunshot coming from the vehicle about 7:45 a.m. Upon approaching the vehicle, they found Mr. Nulph, dead. All indications are that he killed himself with a single gunshot to his head, apparently with the same .357 Magnum revolver he had taken from the jail guard."
Dubovi said that Nulph was no stranger to police. He was in the Armstrong County Jail on a probation violation, but also was facing federal charges concerning bank robberies in Oakmont and Greensburg. Because of Nulph's extensive criminal history police considered him dangerous.
"This was a dangerous person," Dubovi said. "Our officers were determined to stop him."
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