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Cops: Suspect ditched ‘bag of kittens’ during Westmoreland County chase

Paul Peirce
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Police recovered a group of kittens from a backpack that a suspect allegedly ditched in Jeannette before leading police on a chase into Penn Township on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2018.

Greensburg Police reported a 37-year-old Jeannette man who ran from police Wednesday was wanted for questioning in a series of thefts from an outdoors store last week, but added that he dropped a suspicious bag during his getaway.

Thomas Campbell, 37, was awaiting arraignment before Greensburg District Judge Chris Flanigan Thursday on charges of escape, fleeing and eluding police, retail theft, receiving stolen property, reckless endangerment, reckless driving and driving at an unsafe speed filed by city police following the 1:45 p.m. incident. During the chase that lasted a mile between Jeannette and the village of Claridge in Penn Township, Campbell crashed his Jeep into a utility pole along Claridge Elliott Road and was captured nearby hiding in the crawl space beneath a mobile home.

Det. John Swank reported in court documents filed before District Judge Chris Flanigan that when police returned to the 900 block of Evans Avenue in Jeannette, where the chase began, they collected Campbell’s hat, his jacket and a backpack he dropped during the initial stage of the pursuit.

“I checked the bag and found a backpack with five kittens inside. The kittens were abandoned without food or shelter in cold weather and could have been struck by a passing vehicle,” Swank wrote in court documents.

Campbell is now facing an additional complaint of cruelty to animals. Det. Charles Irvin and Lt. Rob Jones eventually took the kittens to Wayward Animal Rescue in Greensburg for adoption.

The chase resulted in a heavy police presence and streets being closed near Claridge Elliott Road until Greensburg K9 Falco located Campbell hiding beneath the trailer around 2:50 p.m.in the vicinity of Denmark and Blocks roads.

Swank reported in court documents that he wanted to question Campbell about a series of thefts the week of Feb. 7 from the Gander Outdoors store in Greensburg where a man, identified as Campbell, was captured by store surveillance cameras allegedly stealing 19 packages of razor-sharp archery blades valued at $1,000, plus a trail camera valued at $230.

Swank noted in police reports that Campbell was also wanted on an arrest warrant by North Huntingdon Police for a separate retail incident there last September.

Penn Township Police reported they also intend to file complaints against Campbell in connection with the police pursuit Wednesday.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.