Police search for drug suspect in Harmar, Indiana townships
A man who led state police on a chase and manhunt in Harmar and Indiana townships was still at large Tuesday afternoon when police suspended the search.
State police, aided by local and Allegheny County police, searched wooded areas near Rich Hill, Jacoby and Gulf Lab roads for Joe Enrique Molina-Delgado, 33.
State police said Molina-Delgado was pulled over for speeding on Route 28 near Exit 11 in Harmar shortly after 11 a.m.
Police discovered he was wanted on a drug arrest warrant; the suspect bolted from the traffic stop.
The search was called off about 2:30 p.m. after a number of unconfirmed reports of a man matching his description in the Acmetonia section of Harmar.
“It's just a matter of time before we catch him,” said state police Sgt. Terry Laykish.
He said Molina-Delgado has addresses in New Kensington and Tarentum, which police will be monitoring.
The chase started when the suspect sped off onto Route 910, leading state police on a chase to Rich Hill Road.
Along Rich Hill, police tried to stop Molina-Delgado using a driving maneuver by which police bump a fleeing car to abruptly turn it sideways and stall its engine.
But the rear bumper of Molina-Delgado's vehicle fell off on the lawn of the Forest View housing plan, and he kept going.
Dead end doesn't stop chase
He immediately turned onto a private drive — but it was a dead end.
Rather than surrendering, the suspect drove his sedan over a hillside.
He managed to drive it about three-tenths of a mile through the woods along a creek, Laykish said. When the car bogged down, he ran through the woods into a nearby junkyard.
The car was abandoned not far from Jim Miller's secluded home. Miller said he looked out the kitchen window when he heard an engine that didn't sound like the typical ATVs that are common on the creek trail.
“I looked out and saw him driving the car and then he jumped out and started running,” Miller said. “A state police trooper was right behind him, and he took off running after him.”
Given the police presence, Miller said he wasn't concerned for his safety. He remained outside working in his garage while the search continued.
The West Deer police dog that was tracking Molina-Delgado lost his scent in the junkyard.
A state police helicopter made sweeps overhead, hoping to spot the suspect using thermal imaging.
Woman walking dog speaks to suspect
The last credible sighting police received was at about 2 p.m. from Gulf Lab Road resident Betty Pierce.
Pierce said she was walking with her two Labrador retrievers on a trail behind her home when she encountered a man she later found out may have been Molina-Delgado.
She said she asked the man what he was doing, and he told her he was looking for his brother, who was hunting. When she asked him where his hunting license was, he said it was his brother hunting, not him.
The man continued walking on the trail, which heads in the direction of U-PARC on Gulf Lab Road in Harmar.
It wasn't until Pierce talked to her husband a few minutes later and he told her about the police search that she realized she may have seen the suspect. She immediately called 911 and police converged on the area.
Pierce said the man she saw was Hispanic, wearing black sweatpants and a black hooded jacket with a quilted pattern on it. He also had burrs on his clothing.
“I could tell he'd been in the woods,” she said.
When the police search first began, officers were warning residents in neighborhoods along Rich Hill Road near Adams Drive to be on the lookout for Molina-Delgado.
Natalie and Randy Schreckengost, who live in the nearby Shawnee Ridge housing plan, said they carefully checked the outside areas of their home, like the pool deck and shed just to be safe.
“It's kind of strange,” said Randy Schreckengost. “It's a quiet neighborhood.”
Schools locked down
Natalie Schreckengost said she would certainly be meeting their 10-year-old daughter at the bus stop. She attends Hartwood Elementary School in the Fox Chapel Area School District. Schreckengost said she received an alert that the school, about six miles away, was on lockdown as a precaution.
All Allegheny Valley School District buildings were also placed on lockdown. The lockdown was lifted just before 1:30 p.m.
Jodi Weigand is a Tribune-Review staff writer.