Suspect flees, shot after Baldwin police chase

Man accused of running over officer



Amy Calabrese knew the Baldwin police officer who came to her door Wednesday afternoon to arrest her on charges relating to a stolen bicycle.

He’d arrested her before, she said, and the two had a rapport. He trusted her not to run and she trusted him to give her a few moments to make arrangements for her two young children, including one with a heart condition.

The same, police said, was not true of her boyfriend, who is accused of running over one Baldwin police officer Wednesday and leading officers on a chase in which he stole two cars before police said he exchanged fire with officers.

Police had not publicly identified the man, who Wednesday underwent surgery for a single bullet wound, but Calabrese identified him as Richard DeSabetino, 33, who shared a home with her in the 1100 block of Bonni Drive.

Calabrese, 31, said the officer, whom she described as a nice, “good cop,” told her he needed to take her to the Allegheny County Jail. Police also asked  DeSabetino, who held the couple’s 7-month-old daughter, Kendall, for his information, Calabrese said.

DeSabetino said, “Baby, I love you.”

Calabrese said she asked him what was wrong. “He said, ‘I love you’ and boom — he was gone.”

From there Calabrese’s story and the police account differ.

Allegheny County police superintendent Charles Moffatt said DeSabetino got into a car, ran over a Baldwin police officer and dragged him with the car. The officer regained his footing and then was hit by the car again, at which point one of the Baldwin police officers opened fire, Superintendent Moffatt said.

That, he said, is when the chase began.

Calabrese said DeSabetino set the couple’s daughter down on the sidewalk and hopped into their car. She said the officer she knows well jumped into the car to try to remove her boyfriend and fell backward, hitting his head.

Ms. Calabrese said her boyfriend, who suffers from anxiety and depression, has a fear of police and had the car in reverse, when a different Baldwin police officer whom she did not know opened fire.

DeSabetino said, “This is not your fault. This is not your fault,” and sped off, his girlfriend said. Calabrese said that was the last she saw of him for several hours.

“I shut the cop’s car off,” Calabrese said. “I held his hand. I said, ‘Somebody call his wife, his girlfriend.’”

Calabrese said she grabbed a pillow to place under the injured officer’s head and listened to the police scanner as officers chased Desabatino. When the action intensified, she said, police took her inside and out of earshot of the radio.

Superintendent Moffatt said Desabatino drove the car to South Park, where he abandoned it. He got into another car and drove to Bethel Park, toward the intersection of Baptist and Higbee roads, police said.

That intersection marks the only entrance to the Grandview Farms housing development, an otherwise calm neighborhood full of families whose homes cost at least a few hundred thousand dollars and sometimes more than a half-million.

“The actor continues on and is trying to elude the police officers,” Superintendent Moffatt said, standing at the entrance to the neighborhood. “He ends up wrecking at the corner behind us. He carjacks another car who he wrecked into at this corner behind us.”

Then, police said, he fled to Grandview Farms.

One woman, who asked not to be named out of concern for her safety, said she and her husband were inside their house when she heard a noise and asked her husband if he had just said something. Her husband said he did not.

She whispered, “I think there’s someone in our garage.”

The woman said her husband walked into their garage, where he saw a man peering through the passenger side window of their van. The man told her husband that his car broke down nearby and asked if he could borrow a screwdriver.

It began to drizzle. The woman’s husband asked the man to leave and started to put down the garage door, but the man broke part of the garage door and tried to come back in, she said.

The rain came down harder and the man made a comment about it, the woman said. Her husband told him, “You better make a run for it if you don’t want to get soaked,” she said, and the man left.

The woman said her husband called 911 and she briefly spotted the man, in a turquoise shirt, in their backyard.

A few moments later, she heard shots.

Superintendent Moffatt said officers from three police departments — Baldwin Borough, Bethel Park and Allegheny County — opened fire and that at some point the suspect did as well. Calabrese said she did not think her boyfriend had a gun.

When officers placed DeSabetino under arrest, they noticed that he had been struck, Bethel Park police Chief John Mackey said.

His condition Wednesday was unclear.

Also unclear was why DeSabetino ran. Superintendent Moffatt said police were investigating the possibility that DeSabetino was wanted on a parole or probation violation.

Calabrese said her boyfriend, who has a criminal record dating to 1999, found out about a month ago that he was wanted on a violation for not properly reporting.

“I did know about it,” she said. “He told me he had cleared it up, and I believed him.”

Calabrese was listed in court records as awaiting arraignment Wednesday night on charges of receiving stolen property and conspiracy in connection with a Pittsburgh case.

She said she learned late Wednesday that DeSabetino was expected to survive and had been shot once in the back.

“Why it’s to his back, I’m a little concerned,” she said of the gunshot wound.

DeSabetino could not be reached. Charges against him had not been filed Wednesday night.

The injured Baldwin police officer, whom officials did not name, was alert as he awaited the results of a CT scan Wednesday afternoon, police said.

It was a day, Chief Mackey said, in which it seemed as if “all hell broke loose,” and a day that left Calabrese with one main thought about the shooting: “There was no reason to do it.”


Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published August 6, 2014 12:00 AM


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