Victim, 89, in Warminster gun battle identified

Andrew Graham Cairns, 49, of Warminster Township, Bucks County, was charged with aggravated assault after a shootout with police Feb. 19 and 20 that left a 90-year-old neighbor dead.
Andrew Graham Cairns, 49, of Warminster Township, Bucks County, was charged with aggravated assault after a shootout with police Feb. 19 and 20 that left a 90-year-old neighbor dead.
Posted: February 21, 2013

The 89-year-old woman shot to death overnight in Warminster Township as police exchanged gunfire with a man barricaded inside an apartment was identified today as Marie Zienkewicz, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said.

Zienkewicz died in the gun battle between Warminster officers and Andrew G. Cairns after police responded to a report of shots fired at the Jefferson on the Creek apartments along East Street Road late Tuesday, according to the DA's office.

It remains unclear who shot the woman. Heckler's office is handling the investigation of the gunfire that involved Carins and the officers on scene: four patrol officers and two lieutenants. 

Heckler said this afternoon that Cairns allegedly fired at least 8 shots from what he believes was a .44 Magnum handgun. Police fired four shots back. He said the officers were in danger of being hit by bullets, some of which came very close to hitting them. He also alleged Cairns and his girlfriend were intoxicated by alcohol and drugs during the whole ordeal, which ended at about 2:30 a.m. when the suspect surrendered to police.

During the exchange of bullets, Zienkewicz, who lived in a downstairs unit, was struck. She died at the scene.

"The Warminster police department wishes to express our deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased victim," police said in a statement issued this morning.

According to the criminal complaint, Cairns has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault of a law enforcement officer, discharge of a firearm into a structure and recklessly endangering six police officers. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 28.

Cairns, 49, is being held on $10 million bail after appearing before Magisterial District Judge Daniel Finello for an arraignment this morning.

The tense events surrounding the hours-long standoff rattled the normally quiet apartment complex where neighbors mostly kept to themselves and chatted while walking dogs and watering flowers in the spring.

Events began about 4 p.m. Tuesday when police say Cairns was involved in a domestic disturbance at the Jefferson on the Creek apartment complex on East Street Road.

A domestic violence case worker was originally sent to the scene. However, police received a second call at 7:40 p.m. from residents that shots had been fired.

Arriving police say they were shot at as they approached the 2000 unit building where Cairns was barricaded.

Police fired back and all roads in the area were shut down.

The apartment complex is on the 600 block of East Street Road, also known as Route 132. Records indicate Cairns moved into an apartment in the 2000 unit section of the complex in 2007.

Prior to that, records show addresses for him in Philadelphia and Hatboro, among other places.

At about the time he lived in the Burholme neighborhood of Philadelphia, Cairns was charged with terroristic threats, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. However, the charges were dismissed for lack of prosecution when he went to trial in September 2007.

Lack of prosecution usually means one of the parties was no longer making timely court filings or actively pursuing the case.

Neighbors at the complex were shaken after last night's shootout. Barbara Sussman, who called the incident "very frightening," was getting ready to watch NCIS with her husband when she heard four gunshots outside her apartment.

The couple, who lives in the building closest to the standoff site, received a call at about 11:30 p.m. to get ready to leave the apartment. Police picked them up around 1 a.m.

They, and up to 60 people, were directed to a reception center setup by the Red Cross at William Tennent High School during the course of the standoff.

The Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania provided them with food, drinks and a place to sleep. The center closed this morning.

Sussman said she didn't know Cairns, but often saw him walking his two small dogs.

Nor did she know the woman who was killed too well, only that she seemed "like a nice lady."

But she often saw her outside watering flowers.

"She had beautiful flowers in the spring," Sussman said. "Geraniums, all kinds of flowers."

The sprawling complex is made up of multi-unit two-story biuldings that sit amid trees, green space and a creek.

The 2000 building, where the shootout happened, sits next to a large grassy field and playground. Police were still outside the building this morning.

During the incident, Sussman said, the woman's apartment was "dark, completely dark."

Joan Werkheiser was standing outside her apartment when she heard noises she thought were fireworks or a car backfiring. She originally heard two bangs, then six or seven after she went inside.

While police told residents of units close to the building where the shooting happened to remain inside if they opened their doors or stepped out, Werkheiser said no one approached her about staying in. Her family didn't have to evacuate.

"It's scary," said Renee Sharin. "We weren't allowed out of the house."

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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