Baldwin man charged in wild chase punctuated by gunfire
14Charges were filed on Friday against a Baldwin Borough man accused of being involved in a wild police chase in which more than a dozen gunshots were fired in the South Hills, a carjacking and a fight with a police officer hanging onto a moving getaway vehicle.
An arrest warrant was issued for Richard J. Desabetino, 33, who remains hospitalized under police guard after undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound of the back suffered during the chase on Wednesday.
Baldwin police Officer Sean Biagini, an 11-year veteran, was hospitalized with head and eye injuries when he hit his head on the street after jumping from the speeding getaway car outside the home Desabetino shared with Amy Calabrese and her 7-month-old daughter, a criminal complaint states.
According to the complaint:
Biagini went to the home about 12:30 p.m. with a warrant for Calabrese when Desabetino, who was on probation and was wanted on charges of stealing two bikes, came out of the house and attempted to flee in a sport utility vehicle.
Baldwin Officer Michael Snider arrived and joined Biagini in trying to wrest Desabetino from the SUV before the vehicle began backing up. Snider was able to get off, but Biagini stayed on the running board because his arm was being held. The vehicle lunged forward and Snider fired as Biagini broke free and, fearing serious injury if he tried to stay on the vehicle, jumped off. Snider was struck by the SUV but was not injured and fired a second shot through the windshield.
The SUV was found abandoned at 12:59 p.m. in South Park, and Desabetino was spotted in the Grandview Farms housing complex in Bethel Park, where he stole a vehicle and sped toward Bethel Park police Officer John Symsek, who fired 10 rifle shots at him. Two other Bethel Park officers opened fire with shotguns when the stolen vehicle approached them.
A chase ended when Desabetino crashed at Baptist Road and Higbee Drive into a pickup truck and a Chevrolet HHR driven by Joseph Thome, 61, of Bethel Park.
“(Desabetino) hit my passenger side door and spun me around,” Thome said on Friday night.
“The guy in the pickup was struggling to get out and the other guy was like running away, so I grabbed his arm and spun him into the vehicle and was holding him,” Thome said. “He hit me in the right eye, and I fell to the ground. It was like ‘The Blues Brothers’ — cop cars coming up and down the hill from both directions and going down into the cul de sac.”
Allegheny County police Officer William Kelly saw Desabetino steal Thome’s vehicle and speed toward the converging officers, the complaint states. Kelly fired twice into the driver’s side, and the vehicle sped back into Grandview Farms, where Desabetino was cornered and arrested.
There is no indication in the complaint that Desabetino had a gun.
“Honestly, I didn’t see a gun,” Thome said. “The cops tried to calm me down, and I said: ‘Dude, he stole my truck. I loved that truck. Give me a Jack Daniels and I’ll calm down.’ ”
Michael Hasch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7820 or at [email protected].