Aaron Harrell says the restaurant/grocery store he manages has been the target of thieves in the past, but Saturday was the first time that any of them have fired shots at employees.
It was a typical Saturday at Las Palmas in Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood, according to Harrell, at least until a teen wandered in and grabbed the tip jar by the counter of the taco stand inside the grocery store. When he took off running, several store employees chased after him and their money, only to have him turn back and fire several rounds at them.
“Whenever they were halfway down the street, he started shooting back. He shot three rounds and then I got in my car. I was still here, and got in my car. We were on the call with police at the time, so we were looking for him to tell police where he was, and I found him in the woods. He took out his gun, I shot back. I shot three rounds,” Herrell said.
Because the employees had pursued the armed thief, they had a pretty good idea of where he was and were able to inform arriving officers. Pittsburgh police set up a perimeter around the woods to keep him contained.
A police dog found the teen in the 1600 block of Belasco Avenue, biting him until he surrendered. Another K9 recovered a firearm nearby.
The teen was taken to the hospital to be checked out before detectives questioned him. According to his criminal complaint, he told police that a friend of his had recently died, and he was looking for a way to make money quickly. This is when he decided to “rob” the taco stand outside of Las Palmas.
That seems like a really dumb excuse to engage in behavior that could have resulted in his own death, not to mention the deaths of those employees who were trying to get back the money that was stolen. The teen is now facing a number of charges, including aggravated assault, robbery and recklessly endangering another person, and he’s lucky that he hasn’t been charged with attempted murder given the shots that he fired towards the employees who were pursuing him.
Thankfully, none of the Las Palmas employees were injured, and Harrell says the store was open for business as usual on Sunday. The big question now is what will happen to the teen with Pittsburgh’s juvenile detention center shuttered. Many teens facing serious charges have had ankle monitors slapped on them, even though there’ve been multiple issues with juvenile offenders removing the monitors or even wrapping them in foil to prevent the devices from functioning like they’re supposed to.
An Allegheny County Courts spokesperson admitted last September that “there are simply not enough detention beds to hold juveniles who violate electronic monitoring accountable,” but said the situation will continue until the county adds additional detention space for youthful offenders. It’s likely that the teen accused of robbing Las Palmas will soon be cut loose even if prosecutors try to keep him behind bars until trial. I hope for his sake that he’s learned a valuable lesson from last weekend’s encounter with an armed citizen and law enforcement; victims can have guns too, and can shoot back when their lives are at risk.