An astute witness noted the license plate number on a getaway car after a Greenfield bank robbery, Pittsburgh police said, allowing them to trace the crime to a former University of Pittsburgh football player.
Officers arrested Jovani Chappel, 25, of Hazelwood about 1:30 p.m. Monday after police spotted him sitting on the front porch of a home in the 5000 block of Lytle Street in Hazelwood, about two blocks from where they had sent the SWAT team to search houses for him.
Major Crimes Lt. Kevin Kraus said police took Mr. Chappel to the bureau's North Side headquarters for questioning. According to court documents, "he voluntarily admitted to his involvement in the bank robbery" and was charged with four felony counts of robbery.
Police were called to the PNC Bank branch in the 4300 block of Murray Avenue in Greenfield about 10:40 a.m. Monday for a report of a robbery.
Lt. Kraus said a masked man threatened the tellers with a gun, although it was not immediately clear if the tellers actually spotted a weapon. He continually yelled, "I will kill every one in here," according to court documents.
Police said the robber "immediately" jumped over the counter and demanded cash from three tellers, who put money into his camouflage backpack. The robber hopped back over the counter, ran toward Loretta Street and eventually got into a car and drove away, police said.
A witness noted the license plate number and gave it to police, who traced it to Mr. Chappel's girlfriend's home in the 5100 block of Blair Street, Lt. Kraus said.
Members of the SWAT team surrounded the house and searched it and a few buildings in the area, only to discover that Mr. Chappel was not there.
Police found him sitting on the front porch of the home on Lytle Street. It was not immediately clear what connection, if any, he had to that home.
At Pitt, Mr. Chappel played in 37 games over a four-year career as a defensive back from 2006-09. He made 123 tackles and two interceptions. As a senior, he led the Panthers with 10 pass breakups, but was not selected in the 2010 National Football League draft after his graduation.
Court records show that Brentwood police arrested Mr. Chappel in January 2011 on suspicion that he was driving under the influence of marijuana. Mr. Chappel was accepted into the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program that allows first-time offenders to have their charges withdrawn if they meet certain requirements.
Mr. Chappel's family learned of his arrest from his girlfriend Monday afternoon, according to his father, Jeff Hall. Mr. Hall said a bank robbery did not seem characteristic of his son, who graduated from high school early, earned his bachelor's degree and has been working as an insurance agent.
"I'm at a loss," Mr. Hall said. "It's hard to believe. This doesn't sound like the person I know."
Staff writers Sam Werner and Lexi Belculfine contributed. Liz Navratil: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published August 26, 2013 4:45 AM