Three men were arrested in West Homestead this morning for stealing campaign signs for a Steel Valley school board candidate, prowling and underage drinking.
Matthew Austin, 18; Kyle Karpinski, 18; and Brandon Bissell, 19, told police they had been drinking at Mr. Karpinski's home earlier that night, and the latter two said they "wanted to pull a prank" by taking the signs, according to a criminal complaint written by West Homestead Officer Jamie Caterino.
The signs were supporting Steel Valley school board candidate Coyleen Steele, the wife of Lt. Rodney Steele, one of two West Homestead police officers who responded to the initial call for three men running through yards on Overdale Drive shortly before 1 a.m.
En route, the two officers saw several of Ms. Steele's political yard signs in the road in the 3500 block of Pinewood Drive, according to the complaint.
Lt. Steele got a cell phone call that three men getting into a gray Buick were carrying multiple yard signs.
The officers saw a vehicle matching that description nearby and stopped it. Lt. Steele approached the vehicle and saw his wife's political signs inside, as well as an empty bottle of rum, Officer Caterino wrote.
Lt. Steele estimated between 20 and 30 signs were stolen from multiple yards, including his own.
Some have questioned whether a conflict of interest has emerged, as the candidate and Lt. Steele are married.
Lt. Steele, who supervises the night shift, said he and Officer Caterino were patrolling in the area and responded to the call like they would any other.
"I don't think it's a conflict of interest," Lt. Steele said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. "I think it's an officer that's out there doing his job."
Once it became clear his wife's campaign signs had been stolen, he said he backed off and let the other officer lead the investigation.
All three suspects were taken into custody about 1 a.m. and officers from Munhall and Homestead boroughs were called in to help.
Officers also found marijuana, pills and a pocket scale hidden behind the glove box in Mr. Bissell's car, according to the complaint.
When Officer Caterino tried to take Mr. Austin into custody, "a brief struggle ensued" causing the officer to injure his right hand while taking Mr. Austin to the ground, he wrote.
In Mr. Austin's pocket police found 11 white pills, available only by prescription, and a folded up Coyleen Steele yard sign. While in the interview room, he urinated on the floor and in a trash can, according to the complaint.
All three men have been been charged with loitering and prowling at nighttime, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, conspiracy and underage drinking.
Mr. Bissell has also been charged with possession and driving under the influence. Mr. Austin faces further charges of institutional vandalism, possession and resisting arrest.
Molly Born: email@example.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede.