Suspect freed after Swissvale, city police disagree on who jails him

by: Margaret Harding, TribLIVE Updated:

Loading
SWISSVALE, Pa. —

Tyra Perkins' relief dissolved into panic when she learned that Swissvale police arrested and then freed the man accused of dislocating her shoulder during an assault because police weren't willing to take him to jail.

“I'm still shaking,” said Perkins, 18, the mother of a 14-month-old. “I don't even want to leave my home.”

(This article was written by Margaret Harding, a staff writer for Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE.)

Perkins can breathe easier now because deputies from the Allegheny County sheriff's fugitive squad arrested her former boyfriend, Nire Brown, at his home in the 7300 block of Church Street shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday, Chief Deputy Kevin Kraus said. Brown, 18, of Swissvale was taken to the Allegheny County Jail for processing and to await arraignment in Night Court.

His release from custody earlier this week highlights a nagging weak point when law enforcement agencies execute arrest warrants but disagree about who is responsible for jailing suspects, officials said.

Pittsburgh police in March filed simple assault and theft charges against Brown, accusing him of punching Perkins, choking her, throwing her to the ground and stealing her phone, according to a criminal complaint.

Swissvale police late Monday arrested Brown because he matched the description of a robbery suspect, Chief Greg Geppert said. When officers learned that Pittsburgh police had an arrest warrant for him, they called the city's warrant office and then officers in the Hill District and Squirrel Hill zones, Geppert said.

Supervisors said police were too busy to pick up Brown in Swissvale and take him before a district judge Downtown, Geppert said.

“The city said, ‘Release him or transport him yourself,' ” Geppert said. “This is an ongoing problem with the city.”

Allegheny County Common Pleas President Judge Jeffrey A. Manning said criminal procedure directs the department that arrested the suspect to take him before a magistrate. During evening hours in Allegheny County, that means going to Night Court in the Pittsburgh Municipal Courts Building on First Avenue.

“This idea of calling another police department to have them come and get them isn't proper,” Manning said. “Proper procedure is to take them to Night Court or your own magisterial judge for them to set bail. The procedure is simple, but what you're running into here is a lack of resources.”

Geppert said he had three officers working that night. They were investigating the robbery. He said he couldn't spare one to make the roughly 12-mile round-trip to take Brown to Pittsburgh.

“We can't transport their prisoners,” Geppert said of city police. “I can't leave my town uncovered.”

Kraus said deputies transport prisoners 24 hours a day and will take a prisoner from a department if a deputy is available. He said neither Swissvale nor Pittsburgh made such a request regarding Brown. Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Kathy Degler in Squirrel Hill did not return a message seeking comment. Cmdr. Eric Holmes in the Hill District declined to comment.

Pittsburgh police Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson wouldn't talk about the Swissvale incident but said, depending on circumstances, officers will travel outside the city to retrieve suspects.

“I will say that it is not our policy to release prisoners like that, and we would not want to be exposed to civil liabilities,” Donaldson said.

Perkins obtained a protection-from-abuse order and stayed with her mother because she didn't feel safe at home.

“For a week straight, I was not sleeping,” Perkins said. “If you can break my shoulder, I know you can try something different.”

(Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.)