Security guard suspect in Homewood bakery robbery was at seminar, attorney says
The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office has instructed Pittsburgh police to take another look at its case against a security guard accused of robbing a bakery in Homewood last month because his attorney says he was at a training seminar.
Attorney Patrick Nightingale said his client, DeAndre Brown, 26, of East Liberty, a security guard at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, was at a three-hour job-related training seminar in Oakland at 2:45 p.m. Sept. 10.
About that same time, a black man wearing a white T-shirt pointed a silver revolver at an employee of Dana's Bakery on Homewood Avenue and fled with about $80.
Police arrested Brown, who had no previous criminal record, on Sept. 13 based on his identification as the suspect by the bakery employee. He was charged with robbery and possessing a firearm.
Nightingale said he has the sign-in sheet from the training session, a surveillance video from the library and witnesses who can confirm Brown was in the seminar.
“There's an innocent man sitting in jail right now,” he said.
Brown has been held in the Allegheny County Jail on $105,000 bail since his arrest and could not be reached.
“He's never been in trouble before. He's never been in jail before,” said Yvonne Brown, his mother.
Nightingale reviewed the surveillance video from the library on Wednesday with the District Attorney's Office. He plans to ask a judge on Thursday to lift Brown's bail.
According to the criminal complaint, a man with a white T-shirt covering part of his face entered the bakery about 2:45 p.m. and demanded money. The baker told police that he caught a glimpse of the man's face when the shirt fell while he fidgeted with the register.
The following day, the complaint states, the baker called 911 when he recognized a man at the shop as the one who had robbed him and reported his license plate to police.
A man at the business declined to comment.
Nightingale said the baker identified Brown because he works nearby and visits the shop often.
At Brown's preliminary hearing on Sept. 24, Pittsburgh robbery squad Detective Nicholas Bobbs refused to speak to one of Brown's co-workers who could confirm he was in Oakland at the time of the robbery, Nightingale said.
Bobbs could not be reached. His supervisor, Pittsburgh police Sgt. LaVonnie Bickerstaff, declined to comment.
Carnegie Library spokeswoman Suzanne Thinnes said she could not comment on personnel matters, but she confirmed there was a training seminar at 2 p.m. Sept. 10 at the library's main branch in Oakland. She could not say whether Brown attended. Carnegie Library employees whose names appeared on the sign-in sheet did not respond to requests for comment.
Criminal law experts said that while police often don't immediately know if a suspect has an alibi, they usually investigate before filing charges.
“It would be gross negligence on the part of the police” not to investigate further, said Temple University law professor Edward Ohlbaum.
Mike Manko, a spokesman for the DA's office, said it would be unusual for an assistant district attorney to act on information at the preliminary hearing. Manko confirmed Brown's case is under review.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.