DA: Don't commit crimes in Oakland
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said he plans to work with the Original Hot Dog Shop to increase security there but isn't afraid to “go down a different path” if the owners of the iconic Pittsburgh eatery don't cooperate.
“I don't like to close businesses if I don't have to,” Zappala said at a news conference on Monday. “But if we come to an agreement and they don't live up to it, I may go down a different path.”
On Aug. 2, Zappala closed Levelz, a South Side bar, over a stabbing there a few days earlier.
The stabbing was among several incidents at the bar since 2011.
Members of Zappala's office plan to meet again this week with the hot dog shop's attorney, Lou Caputo, to discuss possible safety measures, such as adding off-duty police officers during certain hours of the day and closing earlier. The sides also met last week.
Zappala said he is concerned with security at the popular late-night hangout because of previous problems.
The restaurant along Forbes Avenue — nicknamed the “O” or “Dirty O” by college students — has been featured on the Food Network and in Rick Sebak's “A Hot Dog Program.”
It had an off-duty officer inside the shop at nights, but that arrangement was canceled in November when the police department and store owners disagreed over the number of officers that would work there at the same time, police officials said. Food is served until 3:30 a.m., and beer until 2 a.m. every day.
“At this point, we're still in the process of working with the district attorney's office, and we're obviously going to take what they have to say and work together with them to make sure people are safe down there,” Caputo said.
Concerns over safety at the “O” arose after a shooting nearby on Aug. 3 in which Isiah Smith, 22, of Lincoln-Lemington is accused of fatally shooting Zachary Sheridan, 24, a former Slippery Rock University football player. Zappala said he likely will pursue a first-degree murder charge.
Smith's lawyer, Blaine Jones, said his client was getting beat up when he fired his gun in self-defense.
Zappala said video surveillance cameras show Smith waving a gun and firing at Sheridan from 20 feet away as Sheridan ran across Forbes at 3:25 a.m.
Sheridan collapsed on South Bouquet Street, about a block away.
“If you're going to commit a crime in Oakland, certainly a major crime, you will be seen, you will be caught, and you will be prosecuted,” Zappala said.
His warning was issued as thousands of students moved into their dorms at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland.
“It's a very important case to the community because it took place in the heart of our academic community in Oakland,” Zappala said. “Fortunately, this is the exception, not the rule.”
Also Monday, Zappala announced that police in Whitaker must get approval from his office to obtain search warrants.
Zappala said he changed the policy because of allegations that a suspended Whitaker police officer falsified statements to obtain two search warrants; officers generally have to present evidence to a district judge who can approve warrants.
“I cannot think of a more egregious misuse of public trust, and I'm not going to permit that to happen anymore,” Zappala said.
Whitaker Borough police Chief John Vargo declined comment. Mayor John Karichko could not be reached.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.