Police catch suspect before he jumps off bridge

| Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Swissvale police stopped a Mt. Washington man from jumping off a 300-foot-high bridge on the Parkway East after a high-speed car chase, police said Monday.

Police said three officers stopped Roy Mitchell, 40, of the 300 block of Kramer Way from jumping. Police said he fled when he was discovered trying to steal 29 lawn ornaments worth $465 from the Kmart store at Edgewood Towne Centre around 3:15 a.m. Friday.

Edgewood police officer Leslie Lewis said she saw Mitchell using bolt cutters to break into the store's garden center. She radioed officer Dennis Hockenberry for backup, but Mitchell got into a 1985 Ford Thunderbird and attempted to ram Hockenberry's vehicle, police said. Hockenberry avoided the collision.

With Edgewood, Swissvale and neighboring police departments giving chase, Mitchell got on the Parkway East, got off at Forest Hills, made a U-turn and got back on the Parkway driving at high speeds toward the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, police said.

While police followed at more than 60 mph, Mitchell tried to jump out of his car about six times, according to Lewis' report.

Police say Mitchell turned his car around about 500 feet short of the tunnel and pulled over to the berm. That's when Swissvale officers Tony Costa, Shannon Wintruba and Debbie Orhman fought with Mitchell to stop him from climbing over the side of the parkway and plunging 300 to 400 feet from the bridge over Commercial Street, police said.

In the scuffle, Wintruba and Costa suffered minor injuries. Costa was treated at Shadyside Hospital for a strained and bruised forearm, then released; Wintruba injured her knee slightly.

Mitchell faces a preliminary hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday before District Justice Frank Comunale of Forest Hills. Mitchell is charged with aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, theft, resisting arrest, criminal attempt, burglary, criminal trespass, fleeing and eluding police and reckless driving.

Daniel Reynolds can be reached at dreynolds@tribweb.com or (412) 380-8533.

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