LANCASTER, PA — A Reading man pleaded guilty this week to aggravated assault and other charges stemming from a criminal course of conduct that escalated to the defendant using a flamethrower and driving a vehicle at police, announced Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams.
Zachary R. Gilbaugh, 39 of the 1100 block of New Holland Road, pleaded guilty to the charges Thursday before Lancaster County Judge Thomas Sponaugle.
Judge Sponaugle accepted the plea and sentenced the defendant to 8 to 20 years in prison.
“I regret what I did,” Gilbaugh said during the proceeding. “I was doing drugs. I apologize.”
Members of the United States Marshals Fugitive Task Force were executing an arrest warrant for Gilbaugh around 6:00 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2022, at a residence in the 1400 block of Union Grove Road, East Earl Township
East Earl Township Police Department held multiple warrants for Gilbaugh including stalking, a PFA violation, criminal trespass, burglary, vehicle theft, and other offenses stemming from a course of conduct that began on December 17, 2021.
Gilbaugh had additional active warrants for burglary by the Reading Police Department, intimidation of a witness by East Earl Township Police Department, and probation violations of indecent exposure in Berks County and resisting arrest by Chester County District Attorney’s Office.
During the execution of the warrant, Gilbaugh was found in a crawlspace-like area in the basement of a residence. The defendant failed to comply with verbal commands from the officers and threatened them with a small blowtorch and cinder blocks.
The officers deployed tasers and a ballistic sponge round that were ineffective in getting the subject to comply. At this time, the officers retreated out of the house and evacuated all other people from the residence. Lancaster County Detectives found taser wires and the sponge round in the basement.
The subject then exited the front door of the residence carrying a large, circular saw blade and the blowtorch. Gilbaugh then approached and entered a tan Chrysler minivan, dropping the saw blade on the ground as he entered the driver’s seat. The vehicle was parked facing the street in a lot in front of the residence.
Five officers converged on the vehicle and again gave verbal commands to comply, which the subject ignored. Gilbaugh accelerated forward while two uniformed officers were in front of the vehicle, nearly striking both. As the vehicle lurched forward, officers fired multiple shots at the subject, who was struck multiple times.
Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams later deemed the officers justified in March 2022 under Pennsylvania law as Gilbaugh endangered the lives of officers who were commanding him to stop.
The vehicle crashed into a guardrail and came to a stop across the street; the officers removed the subject from the vehicle and aid was rendered by the officers. The blowtorch was later found by Lancaster County Detectives in the area of the crash.
The actions of Gilbaugh were caught on video by a nearby surveillance system and reviewed by Lancaster County Detectives.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Miller prosecuted the case. Detective Brendan McAnally filed charges.
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