Pittsburgh police investigate rash of armed robberies

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A Mt. Lebanon man went to the Waterworks Mall Monday in search of a toy gun, used it to hold up a teller at a nearby bank and ran away -- only to be arrested moments later.

The robbery he tried to commit was at least the 11th Pittsburgh police officers have investigated in a little more than a week. Six of the robberies occurred on Monday and seven happened at gas stations or convenience stores.

The robbery squad "is investigating to ascertain if any of these incidents are related," department spokeswoman Diane Richard said.

Monday night's robbery near the Waterworks Mall did not appear to be connected to the others.

Sgt. Mike Pilyih, of the city's Zone 5 station in Highland Park, said Pittsburgh police received a call about 3:15 p.m. to assist with a bank robbery at the Dollar Bank on Freeport Road, about eight blocks from the Waterworks Mall.

A witness told police a man, later identified as Scott Stakich, 38, walked into the bank, held up the teller using a toy gun, stashed some cash in a duffel bag and ran away.

Etna police, who assisted with the investigation, spotted Mr. Stakich hiding behind some trees at the Waterworks Cinema at the mall about 20 minutes after the robbery happened. Police also found the stolen cash, the duffel bag and the toy gun, the sergeant said.

Mr. Stakich was in the Allegheny County Jail awaiting arraignment Monday night.

Police have had a harder time making arrests in 10 other robberies that have happened in a little more than a week and are asking the public for assistance.

Investigators suspect an armed man robbed the BP gas station in the 1800 block of West Liberty Avenue in Brookline about 10 a.m. on May 13 and the Sunoco gas station in the 1700 block of Banksville Road in Banksville about 9:20 a.m. last Tuesday.

Police said two armed men wearing masks ran inside Parrots Pub in Spring Garden about 10:40 p.m. on Saturday, told everyone to "put their faces down" and empty their pockets and ran out after stealing money from the cash register and bar.

Two more robberies occurred on Sunday. Police said a white man in a green hoodie, jeans, a tan-and-green hat and sunglasses robbed the Quik Stop in the 3300 block of Liberty Avenue in Lawrenceville shortly after 7 p.m. They said the man showed an unspecified weapon and told an employee, "Don't worry, I'm not going to hurt you. ... I just need the money."

Four hours later, one man stole money and cigarettes from the Uni-mart in the 1600 block of Lowrie Street in Troy Hill while another man stood guard outside.

Police are also asking for help in finding the suspects in five robberies that occurred early Monday morning.

A jitney driver told police she picked up three men in the 1700 block of Belleau Drive on the North Side late Sunday night. When they exited her car on Strauss Lane in Perry South shortly after midnight, one of the men stole about $20 from her at gunpoint.

About 1:30 a.m., officers in the city's Zone 1 station received a call that two men had broken into a house in the 3800 block of California Avenue in Brighton Heights and stolen a PlayStation, iPod, cell phone and a 3-month-old pit bull.

Shortly before 4 a.m., an armed man robbed the A-Plus in the 100 block of North Negley Avenue in Garfield. Moments later, someone attempted to rob an employee at the Marathon gas station in the 4000 block of Penn Avenue in Lawrenceville. That person pistol-whipped the employee, leaving her with a head injury and fled without getting any cash.

Moments after that attempted robbery, at about 4:20 a.m., police received a call that an armed man robbed the Sunoco in the 300 block of Stanhope Street in Sheraden.

Anyone with information is asked to call the robbery squad at 412-323-7151.

neigh_city

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published May 22, 2012 12:00 AM


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