ShareThis Page
News

DA: Don't commit crimes in Oakland

| Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, 1:39 p.m.

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 abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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.

click me