After three-district car chase, suspect hit with 15 charges

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Richard DeSabetino, who police say led officers from three districts on a high-speed chase Wednesday and managed to dodge 16 out of 17 shots fired at him, was charged Friday with a litany of offenses.

The Lawrenceville native is facing 15 charges, including three counts of aggravated assault, five counts of reckless endangerment, theft, robbery, driving without a license and trying to evade arrest.

The most seriously injured of his victims, Sean Biagini, a Baldwin Borough police officer, suffered a subdural hemorrhage and a severe left eye bruise, according to the criminal complaint filed Friday. Several others suffered minor injuries. Michelle Sizemore, the suspect’s mother, said he was shot once in the back and was in the trauma unit of Allegheny General Hospital as of Saturday evening.

Ms. Sizemore said she was shocked to hear the extent of her son’s actions to evade the police — an episode that spanned more than 45 minutes. It involved two carjackings and landed at least two people in the hospital.

“He’s been in police chases before and he’s hit police with cars and everything, but carrying it to this extreme, this was unexpected,” Ms. Sizemore said. “At the end of the day Richard is still a son and a brother and he has a family that loves him.”

Though her son has been in trouble since the age of 15, she said, DeSabetino comes from a close-knit family. His sister Felicia DeSabetino said, he is not a violent person. “He just chooses the wrong path to go in at times,” she said. “I’m very ashamed of what he did.”

According to the complaint, the incident began when DeSabetino was asked to identify himself after Officer Biagini arrived at DeSabetino’s girlfriend’s house in Baldwin Borough to serve a warrant for her arrest for bicycle theft. DeSabetino wouldn’t provide his name and instead picked up a car seat with his girlfriend’s 7-month-old baby and left the house. Officer Biagini followed. He knew DeSabetino had several warrants for his arrest and suspected he might flee. DeSabetino put the baby down outside and went toward his car.

Officials said that Officer Biagini ran after him and struggled to pull him out of the car. Michael Snider, another Baldwin police officer who’d just arrived at the scene, joined in the struggle and both were halfway into the vehicle when DeSabetino started the car and kicked it into reverse, dragging Officer Biagini alongside as the vehicle traveled backwards about 30 feet. Officer Snider was able to hop out of the vehicle but Officer Biagini said DeSabetino was holding his shirtsleeve so he couldn’t get away.

According to the complaint, when the car finally stopped, Officer Snider had come around to the front and ordered DeSabetino to stop, but the suspect began driving forward and Officer Snider fired a shot through the windshield. DeSabetino let go of Officer Biagini’s sleeve and the officer jumped to the ground, striking his head on the pavement.

Officer Snider then fired at DeSabetino again, but the driver got away and headed for South Park, where he dumped his car and stole a green Oldsmobile Cutlass from the driveway of Michael Yenchek, officials said.

As he made his escape down Grandview Place, DeSabetino was speeding down the wrong side of the street heading in the direction of John Symsek, a Bethel Park police officer, who, “fearing for his safety as the vehicle approached him, fired 10 times from his department-issued patrol rifle.”

According to the complaint, the green car continued to barrel along Grandview Place toward two other Bethel Park police officers who heard Officer Symsek’s shots and figured they were in danger. They, too, fired at DeSabetino, who continued driving.

At this point, several police departments were chasing the green Oldsmobile as DeSabetino made his way into traffic and hit two cars, officials said. He ran out into the street and overpowered the driver of the second vehicle he hit, stealing that Chevy HHR and speeding away from the area.

According to the complaint, an Allegheny County police officer who witnessed the struggle, William Kelly, shot twice into the driver’s seat once DeSabetino was at the wheel, but the suspect continued to drive away until he was trapped on a dead-end street inside the Grandview Farms housing development.


Anya Litvak: alitvak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.

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