2 arrested in New Kensington, Tarentum gas station robberies
Surveillance cameras, police work and, in one case, dogged pursuit of the suspect by passersby led to arrests of two men on Friday in unrelated gas station robberies in Tarentum and New Kensington this week.
• Justin Lamb, 27, of West Ninth Avenue is accused of robbing the Tarentum Marathon at 100 E. Seventh Ave. at about 9 p.m. Thursday, police said.
Police nabbed the suspect about two hours later.
Lamb was in the Allegheny County Jail on Friday in lieu of $100,000 cash bond, pending a preliminary hearing.
• New Kensington police arrested a homeless man on Friday who they say committed a strong-arm robbery of the BP gas station along Tarentum Bridge Road on Tuesday night.
Michael Allen Raiford, 26, was in the Westmoreland County jail in lieu of $50,000 bond pending a preliminary hearing.
In Tarentum, police say Lamb was wearing a hoodie and covered his face with a black and white bandana when he approached a Marathon gas station clerk on Thursday night.
She asked him to remove the bandana because she couldn't understand what he was saying.
Instead, according to police, he pulled an “old-fashioned”-looking handgun and pointed it at the clerk, threatening, “Someone will get hurt. Give me the money.”
The robber demanded big bills and the clerk handed over about $160.
Police Chief Bill Vakulick said surveillance video shows the robber placing a silver, small-caliber revolver on the counter while waiting to be handed money.
The robber was seen by several passersby, who the chief credited with helping nab the suspect.
One witness saw the suspect bolt from the store and along East Seventh Avenue to Wood Street, where a green Saturn was parked.
Another said he was walking along West Seventh Avenue when he saw a man he knows as “Jason” drive past him in the Saturn. That witness saw the car headed onto East Street in West Tarentum, and the car's lights suddenly went out.
Still another witness followed the Saturn along numerous streets near the gas station, including going the wrong way on East Eighth Avenue before crossing Ross Street (Route 366) to Mill Street and eventually into West Tarentum.
By then, Tarentum, Harrison and Fawn officers spotted the car near a residence along the 200 block of West Ninth, where police say Lamb was staying.
Lamb ran into the house before police arrived, stayed a few moments, threw his roommate the keys, and ran back outside. Police didn't find Lamb at home but did find a black-and-white bandana hidden above ceiling tiles and a blue hoodie on the floor.
Police had the Saturn towed so they could get a search warrant to examine it.
The homeowner said he had a small revolver that he keeps under the mattress. When asked to get it, the man found the gun was missing and said he hadn't given anyone permission to take it.
Police left the house but continued to search the neighborhood. When they saw a man entering the house's back door, officers surrounded the house.
Vakulick said five Tarentum officers went inside and found Lamb hiding in a crawl space.
In addition to robbery, Lamb is charged with simple assault for allegedly menacing the clerk, theft of about $160, receiving stolen property, making terroristic threats, driving without a license, and driving in the wrong direction.
City police on Friday filed charges against Raiford, who police said had gotten away with about $30 on Tuesday night.
Police said the homeless man tried to use a credit card at an ATM inside the New Kensington BP along Tarentum Bridge Road at Leechburg Road, but the card was declined.
When Raiford handed a clerk a few dollars for a small purchase, she opened the cash register. According to police, Raiford “reaches across the counter with his left hand and grabs money from the drawer.”
The store video shows the clerk trying to stop him, according to police Lt. Jim Klein. Raiford calmly walked out the door and got into a dark, possibly maroon, SUV that pulled out onto Leechburg Road.
The Valley News Dispatch publicized the surveillance photo in Friday's newspaper, on its website and on Facebook.
Another New Kensington officer told Klein that the robber looked like Raiford. Then at about 10:30 a.m. Friday, Arnold police Officer Eric Doutt saw man fitting the robber's description walking along Fifth Avenue. Even his clothes matched the surveillance photo, Klein said in an affidavit. Klein said in the arrest report that the man, Raiford, “confessed to being the guy in the picture doing the robbery.”
Raiford told police he got out of jail in July. He said he had no home or job and he was hungry.
He said he didn't intend to rob the store but was unable to get money out of the ATM, according to the affidavit.
Raiford was arraigned by New Kensington District Judge Frank J. Pallone Jr. and sent to the county jail in lieu of $50,000 bond, pending a preliminary hearing.
Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Driver leaps from sliding truck just before it topples down hillside in Fawn
- Gunman sought in gas station robberies in Jefferson, Buffalo townships
- Parents alerted to luring attempt of fourth-grade girl in Springdale
- EPA urges further review of nuclear waste dump in Parks Township
- Winfield Township to try road treatment mix
- Residents opposed to drilling, Consol subsidiary make cases in Allegheny Township
- Arnold officer injured in attempt to detain suspect
- Lower Burrell man charged with stealing copper from Brestensky’s closed meat-packing plant
- Springdale puts limits on adult businesses
- Winfield man is one of a few to attend all 49 Super Bowl games
- Popular Super Bowl, March Madness traditions prohibited under state law