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Pittsburgh police charge school police officer with abusing four students

| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, 4:21 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Robert Lellock, 43, of Beltzhoover, a suspended city schools police officer, is brought into police headquarters on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012. Lellock was charged with child endangerment, corruption of minors and sex crimes after a three-week investigation into allegations he abused students, court records show. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

A former Pittsburgh Public Schools police officer accused of abusing children was arraigned Thursday morning on numerous charges and ordered held on $1 million bond.

Pittsburgh police on Wednesday charged Officer Robert Lellock, 43, of Beltzhoover with child endangerment, corruption of minors and sex crimes after a three-week investigation into allegations he abused students. He is charged with 23 counts involving four accusers.

Lellock declined to answer questions as detectives brought him to police headquarters in the North Side shortly after 4 p.m. Attorney Timothy Kidd could not be reached for comment. He is accused of targeting troubled students and in one instance of telling a boy that he would kill him and his family if he told anyone about sexual assaults, which police say date back to 1998.

“It's unfortunate when it involves another police officer,” city Lt. Kevin Kraus said. “But we certainly believe these charges are substantial and significant.”

Hours later, the school board voted 7-1 to accept the resignation Lellock had submitted this month, effective Sept. 11.

More charges are possible, Kraus said. Detectives arrested him at a home on Orangewood Avenue in Beechview. Kraus described Lellock as “calm” when he arrived at the home to surrender. People at the home declined to comment.

Mike Manko, a spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, said his office is investigating whether school administrators did enough to stop the alleged assaults.

Internal district communications obtained by the Tribune-Review show officials knew about at least one alleged incident involving Lellock and a male student in 1999. The district suspended Lellock for 20 days.

Following the school board's vote, Superintendent Linda Lane held a news conference during which she responded to questions about the district's handling of the 1999 incident, saying: “I'm not going to discuss the '99 case because I was not here.”

In response to a question about whether the district would implement any changes in light of the charges against Lellock, Lane said, “The policies and procedures in place are correct.”

Lellock worked at the district since 1990 and was paid $51,180 a year. The district suspended him with pay on July 25 based on allegations by a former student who said Lellock had inappropriate sexual contact with him while he was a student at Rooney Middle School.

According to a police complaint and affidavit, Lellock targeted troubled middle school students age 13 or 14. He caught one victim with a stolen credit card and another with marijuana. Three victims attended Rooney's “alternative classroom” program for problem students.

One accuser, now 27, told investigators during an Aug. 27 interview that he came forward because he has two young children and suffered flashbacks from the assault.

The man told investigators that Lellock brought him into a supply closet at Rooney when he was 13 and sexually assaulted him at least 20 times after he began attending school there in 1998.

Each time, Lellock would whisper to him that he would kill him and his family if the victim ever told, the affidavit states. At one point, Lellock picked him up in a police car, drove him to a parking lot near Woods Run Road and ordered him to perform a sex act, the accuser told police.

The victim said he became so afraid of the sexual abuse that he brought a knife to school. Someone caught him with the knife, and school officials expelled him, he said.

Another accuser, 27, said Lellock caught him with marijuana and would remind him how he “let it go,” the complaint states. Lellock brought him up to a janitor closet, pressed himself against the victim and fondled him, the complaint states.

A third man, also 27, told police that Lellock would walk with him on school grounds when he caught him skipping class. In one incident, Lellock handcuffed him to a locker and touched him, the accuser said. He told Lellock to stop, and the officer treated the incident as a joke, the complaint states.

The fourth accuser, 28, told police that Lellock never sexually assaulted him but encouraged him to skip class and brought him marijuana and would drive him around in his police car during school hours, the complaint states.

Police were able to charge Lellock after the normal statute of limitations for the charges expired after two to five years because of extensions in state law in cases of child abuse and because Lellock was a public employee.

Staff writer Bill Zlatos contributed to this report. Margaret Harding and Adam Brandolph are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Harding can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com. Brandolph can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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