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Theft suspect in South Hills chase charged 6 times since '99 with fleeing, eluding police

| Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, 11:09 p.m.

A Baldwin Borough police officer remained hospitalized on Thursday with a head injury he suffered while trying to detain a man who then led officers on a car chase through the South Hills.

Police said Richard J. Desabetino, 33, of McKees Rocks has a history of running from police and a warrant for his arrest for skipping court on assault charges, in addition to warrants for two bicycle thefts. Officers didn't know he would be at his girlfriend's Baldwin home on Wednesday, when they arrived to serve her a warrant for one theft.

Desabetino was recovering from surgery for a gunshot, Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said.

Moffatt said Baldwin and Bethel Park officers shot at Desabetino as he drove toward them in separate locations. It isn't clear who shot him or whether Desabetino was armed. Police had not charged Desabetino, Moffatt said.

“This would have been his first summer in 12 to 15 years that he would have been out,” said Desabetino's girlfriend, Amy Calabrese, 31. “He hates jail. He hates being confined. He's scared of cops.”

Baldwin police Chief Michael Scott said an 11-year veteran officer injured his head and face when he fell from the running board of a sport utility vehicle as he tried to stop Desabetino from fleeing outside Calabrese's Boni Drive home. The officer, whom he did not identify, didn't require surgery, but doctors wanted to perform tests because of his head injury, Scott said.

Desabetino — wanted on a bench warrant issued in June by Common Pleas Judge Beth Lazzara — was staying with his girlfriend.

Pittsburgh police wanted him in connection with two bike thefts. Court documents show Desabetino was on probation for receiving stolen property.

At least six times since 1999, Desabetino was charged with fleeing and eluding police, records show.

When a Baldwin officer approached Calabrese with a warrant, Desabetino exited the house, set down a baby carrier with his girlfriend's 7-month-old daughter and got into the SUV, Scott said.

Calabrese said Desabetino “started really freaking out” when police arrived. He told her that his arrest warrant had been cleared, and she believed him.

“He's my boyfriend; why wouldn't I?” she said.

When the officer reached into the SUV, Desabetino grabbed his shirt and held on as he began to drive, Scott said.

“I'm yelling, ‘Stop!' ” Calabrese said. “He was mindset on getting away.”

Another officer shot at the SUV. Desabetino then let go of the first officer, who struck his head when he fell, Scott said.

Moffatt said Desabetino drove to South Park, where he stole a car and drove to Bethel Park. He crashed that car and stole a second one before police cornered him at a dead-end in Grandview Farms.

Shattered glass littered the street in front of Chris Atte's home along Grandview Farms Drive, where brick homes cost about $380,000, real estate records show.

Atte, 62, said he came home to find a bullet hole in the second-floor window of his home.

“It's Grandview Farms — nothing happens here,” he said.

Police did not take Calabrese into custody because she is cooperating with investigators. She said she talked with Pittsburgh police for several hours on Thursday.

Police suspect Desabetino of pawning two stolen bikes at Route 51 Quick Cash in Brentwood.

Shop Manager Brandon Shutterly said on Thursday that he doesn't plan to sell the dozen bikes lined up out front because of recent bike thefts in the area. He said he bought four bikes from Calabrese and Desabetino in the past few months, paying the couple $150 to $500 apiece.

Stephanie Hacke and Matthew Santoni are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach Hacke at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com and Santoni at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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