Man charged in Gettysburg battlefield fire

HANOVER, Pa. — A man whom police believe set fire to hay bales on the Gettysburg battlefields is facing federal charges.

Gary L. DuRocher, 41, of no fixed address, was charged with simple assault, malicious mischief and interstate communications threatening injury to another, according to a criminal complaint filed with the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

He allegedly evaded police for nearly five hours Friday night by walking in and around the Gettysburg battlefield, officials said. They believe he also may have set hundreds of hay bales on fire during that time.

If convicted, DuRocher could face 11 years in prison and fines of more than $500,000, according to a news release from the United States Department of Justice.

Police were called to the Eternal Peace Light at around 6 p.m. for a domestic dispute involving DuRocher, his girlfriend and his girlfriend's child, said Ryan Levins, chief ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park.

The child, whom Levins believes is around 12 or 13 years old, sustained some minor injuries from DuRocher.

After the incident, DuRocher left the area on-foot while police were en route to the scene.

Law enforcement officers from the National Park Service, Cumberland Township, Gettysburg Borough and McSherrystown Borough assisted in the search, as well as state police from Pennsylvania and Maryland. A Maryland State Police helicopter eventually joined the search.

A short time after the helicopter arrived, police believe DuRocher set fire to about 275 hay bales at a property along Biglerville Road. A farmer leases this property from the Park Service, Levins said.

DuRocher evaded police for about five hours by walking in and around the Gettysburg battlefield, officials said. Police arrested him shortly before 11 p.m. near the Gettysburg College campus.

When a crime occurs on park property, the Park Service has the power to either file federal charges or turn the subject over to municipal police, Levins said. It chose to charge DuRocher on the federal level because of the damage to the hay bales.

He was held in Adams County Prison until being transported to Harrisburg on Aug. 11 to make an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab in Harrisburg.

Schwab granted a motion to detain DuRocher until his preliminary hearing on Aug. 21 because of his risk of flight and danger to the community, according to the news release from the Department of Justice.

Levins was not sure where DuRocher would be detained after his initial appearance in Harrrisburg.

Evening Sun reporter Mark Walters contributed to this report.

Join the conversation and share your voice.

Show Comments

Follow Stars and Stripes's board Military families on Pinterest.