Friday, March 23, 2007

Peak: State police unmask The Parkway West Rock Thrower

One of the most horrifying travel dangers in recent Pennsylvania history came to an end this week when the state police arrested The Parkway West Rock Thrower. This story is available on most of the local news websites, such as Channel 11, the Post-Gazette, and the Trib, but my main source is the report on Channel 2. I couldn’t find anything on Channel 4, but they do have this handy Parkway ActionCam. I think that’s the Parkway West, so that can give you an image of the highway in question, or, as some might say it, “the scene of the crime.”

Anyway, the summary of the story is that this guy was standing on an overpass throwing rocks and bricks at cars traveling in both directions on the Parkway West, mostly between the Roslyn Farms and Greentree exits. This had been going on since 2005, so as you can imagine, drivers were quite concerned about traveling on 279-South (yes, that’s the same road as the Parkway West; I know, south and west seem to be different directions, but hey, it’s Pittsburgh. We understand it).

But now those drivers can rest easy, because Jeffrey Angelo Ramous, aka The Parkway West Rock Thrower, has been apprehended. And it took the full resources of Pennsylvania’s Finest to capture this dastardly hurler. According to Ralph Iannotti’s report on Channel 2, the state police’s “aggressive investigation” included “surveillance and night vision cameras and troopers hiding in the woods near the Parkway.” Very covert actions were taken to reign in The Parkway West Rock Thrower.

I have to digress here for a moment and tell you that I am a fan of Ralph Iannotti. Iannotti has the disposition of a middle-to-late-aged man who has been laid off from his office job of 35 years and, as a result, has had to take a job at Staples, where he finds it difficult to mask his brash indifference to the fact that you aren’t sure what type of ink cartridge your printer takes.

If you look at Iannotti’s profile on the Channel 2 website, you’ll see that his favorite TV program is “Lou Grant.” In case you’re unsure, “Lou Grant” was an Ed Asner vehicle that spun off from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” three years after that show ended. “Lou Grant” ran from 1977-1982, and this is notable because Ralph Iannotti started working as a reporter for Channel 2 in 1982. Clearly, his origins as an investigative reporter are tied to the goal of uncovering the real reason “Lou Grant” went off the air.

Anyway, the profile on the Channel 2 web page says that Iannotti is “well known for his gritty no-nonsense style and his track record of being the first to break major stories.”

Well, the case of The Parkway West Rock Thrower certainly falls into those two categories, as Iannotti turns in some fine work in his reporting.

After laying out the facts, like the real identity of The Parkway West Rock Thrower (Jeffrey Angelo Ramous) and the fact that Ramous has admitted to throwing 100 bricks and large stones, Iannotti brings us up close and personal with a real life victim of The Parkway West Rock Thrower’s dastardly actions: Jim Christy of Oakmont.

Jim Christy is your average guy, a regular joe who’s just looking to visit his son and “people down there” but hasn’t been able to take the Parkway because of The Parkway West Rock Thrower. Christy got hit by The Parkway West Thrower last November when he and his wife were driving on the Parkway and an object went through his front windshield, flew through the car, and exited through the rear window. Christy wasn’t hurt in the accident, nor was his wife, but as Iannotti ominously puts it, “he always suspected foul play.”

Yes. The foul play of The Parkway West Rock Thrower.

Now that Ramous is in handcuffs, Christy can once again drive on the Parkway West when he visits his son and “people down there.”

Iannotti then gives us the perspective of one of The Parkway West Rock Thrower’s neighbors. The neighbor isn’t identified in the video, but in Iannotti’s write-up, he outs the man as Mark Franc of Scott Township. Franc calls The Parkway West Rock Thrower, who he knew as “Jeff,” a “very good neighbor.”

So the image of The Parkway West Rock Thrower becomes one of growing intrigue. By day he was Jeffrey Angelo Ramous, dishwasher and cook at Rocky’s Bar on Route 50, a fine man who was always willing to lend a hand to his neighbors. But those neighbors, the generally trusting people of Scott Township, had no idea that, under the cloak of night, the man they knew as “Jeff” became The Parkway West Rock Thrower, terrorizer of travelers, hurler of horror, the proverbial large stone of fear that flies in the night.

But there’s even more intrigue in the case of The Parkway West Rock Thrower; consider the dark statement that Iannotti makes at the end of his report:

"State police tell us they know the motive for Ramous’ actions, but they are not disclosing it at this time."

Whoa. So this is more than a dangerous prank on the part of a bored 49-year old? Seriously? There’s a deep, dark, secret motive underlying the actions of The Parkway West Rock Thrower? Now, on top of the double-life that Ramous has led since 2005, it appears that he’s a man on a mission, a man on a quest to accomplish something or make a statement about something or...or...or...

I really have no idea. What could be the motive for The Parkway West Rock Thrower? Perhaps he has a vision of eradicating air pollution by decreasing the number of travelers on the Parkway West. Perhaps he is trying to encourage drivers to abandon the highway in favor of more scenic “back roads.”

Maybe it’s more personal. Perhaps Ramous is a scorned lover or a victim of unrequited love who discovered that his true love was unfaithful to him or that she (or he) loved another man, and perhaps somehow the Parkway West figured into his discovery of this betrayal. As such, perhaps Ramous created the mysterious persona of The Parkway West Rock Thrower to take vengeance against the highway that he equates with his pain.

Whatever it is, I want to know The Parkway West Rock Thrower’s motive. Is he an activist? Or is he really an emotionally scarred man who just wants someone to love him? The possibilities are endless.

I can only hope that Ralph Iannotti’s gritty no-nonsense style will keep this story alive long enough for us to find out the true motivation for The Parkway West Rock Thrower.


Bram Reichbaum said...

I think he's a radical anti-capitalist anarchist. The Unabomber.

Maybe not so much consciously, but he has a lot of anger and resentment, and he takes it out on those smug bastards driving around.

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