Officers kill man sought in motel arson, deadly shootings; one victim from Alabama

Published 6:45 pm Saturday, April 1, 2023

Law enforcement officers shot and killed a man in eastern Pennsylvania who was wanted in an arson at a New Jersey motel — and being sought for questioning in a double slaying there — and was also wanted in a double shooting in Philadelphia, authorities said.

State police in Berks County say troopers were alerted Thursday evening to be on the lookout for a 53-year-old Philadelphia man being sought in Monday’s arson at the Gloucester County, New Jersey, motel. Police said the same person had walked up to a Philadelphia home earlier Thursday afternoon and shot two people sitting on a porch.

Police said the suspect was spotted in the borough of Wyomissing near the Berkshire Mall, and a short pursuit began after local police units tried to pull him over. Police said the suspect drove into the backyard of a home, and the suspect — who they said had “a rifle with a scope across his chest” — did not obey the commands of officers.

Police said state troopers and local officers from West Reading and Wyomissing fired, and the suspect was pronounced dead at the scene by the Berks County coroner’s office. Officials said nine law enforcement officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

Camden County prosecutors and police identified the suspect Friday as 53-year-old Vaughn Perkins of Philadelphia and said he was wanted in the arson of a room at a Gloucester motel Monday.

Authorities in New Jersey said he was also wanted in an investigation of the slayings of two people found apparently shot to death in another room at the motel, 52-year-old Steven Smith of Atco and 56-year-old Tabitha Price of Gulf Shores, Alabama. The homicides remain under investigation, authorities in New Jersey said Friday.

“There is no threat to the public as Perkins is now deceased,” authorities said in a statement Friday.

District Attorney John Adams told reporters Friday that “a very dangerous person was taken off the streets last evening.”

“I’m not certain of his motive, but he was on a one-man violent crime spree, and we are very fortunate that no one else was injured,” Adams said.