Kim Ward

Courtesy of Kim Ward

State Sen. Kim Ward, left, poses holding her unloaded handgun, with her mother, Joanna Renko, and brother, Philip Renko, holding his cane, after a man attempted to enter her mother’s home in the middle of the night Sunday.

Within hours of when she’d been prepared to shoot an alleged intruder if he came through the kitchen door of her mother’s Chartiers Township home, state Sen. Kim Ward was ready to joke about the chain of events that had threatened to erupt in violence.

“At 4:00 AM I woke up to pounding somewhere on the side of the house, followed by frantic bell ringing of the kitchen door bell,” Ward wrote in a “totally true, almost” Facebook post just before 7 a.m. Sunday. “As any red-blooded American woman would do I jumped out of bed (and) grabbed my gun... When I got to the kitchen I knew the situation was under control because my brother was standing by the kitchen door aiming his cane and ready to pounce.”

Soon after the scare at Ward’s mother’s home, Anthony M. Buchanan, 24, of Washington, was arrested at another house nearby. He’d allegedly forced his way into the attached garage, where the homeowner held Buchanan at gunpoint until a township police officer spotted them.

That night, Ward – a GOP lawmaker from Westmoreland County who’s in her third term – was staying at the house of her mother, Joanna Renko, 79, on Pike Street in Meadow Lands. There had been a family party, and Ward said she chose not to drive all the way back home to Hempfield.

“I just stayed there,” Ward said in an interview Tuesday. “I woke up to pounding on the side of the house.” Someone then started “frantically ringing” the bell of the kitchen door “six or seven” times, she said.

Ward grabbed the 9mm handgun she legally carries to feel safe. While she thought the intruder was outside the door, she had a magazine loaded and a round in the chamber of the handgun, which is outfitted with a laser sight.

“I was ready,” she said.

She said her brother, Phillip Renko, 54, was up, too. So was their mother, who called 911. The lights were off and the blinds drawn. Electric candles in the windows enabled the family members to see each other.

Ultimately, the intruder didn’t try to get in. Asked how she felt about having been so close to shooting someone, Ward answered she “wouldn’t have just opened fire on him.”

“I would have probably done what the neighbor did.

“You don’t know him. You don’t know his intentions,” she added. “So if he’s not going to stop when you tell him to stop, he’s probably going to get hurt.”

She said to get to the house, the intruder had to unlatch a gate, so “it was no accident.”

A police officer was dispatched to the house. He checked out the inside of the house and then heard yelling in a rear alley.

The officer followed the noise toward Hallam Avenue until he spotted the open door of Richard Cholak’s garage. Inside, Cholak had a handgun trained on another man – later identified as Buchanan – who was cowering in the garage attached to Cholak’s house, the officer wrote in court papers.

Cholak was yelling to his wife, who, like him, had awakened to a loud bang, to call 911.

Buchanan faces charges including a felony count of criminal trespassing. He’s being held in Washington County jail following his arraignment before District Judge Curtis Thompson, who set bond at $35,000. Court papers don’t list an attorney for him.

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