DA Zappala responds after random downtown Pittsburgh attack, suspect’s release from jail

PITTSBURGH — On Tuesday, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala talked to the media about the attack on a 71-year-old man outside his apartment last week.

>> Man, 71, randomly attacked in downtown Pittsburgh, police say

In an exclusive interview, David Maka told Channel 11 the attack was unprovoked.

“He comes walking up and turns, and just cold-cocked me,” Maka said.

Officers arrested and charged Daniel Velazquez with misdemeanor crimes.

However, Velaquez was let out of jail the next day. Magistrate Judge Xander Orenstein granted him a non-monetary bond.

“I got the worst judges,” Zappala said.

Last year, DA Stephen Zappala was critical of Judge Orenstein’s decisions on bond. Zappala said Velaquez should have not been released.

“It just wasn’t a punch, he stomped him. It doesn’t rise to the level of criminal attempt homicide, but it was pretty bad,” said Zappala. “Although the number of homicides are down, violence is not down.”

The DA referenced another random beating downtown. Last summer, a hotel guest on his honeymoon was seriously hurt when he was viciously attacked in the lobby of the Even Hotel.

Police say Heiko Calhoun put the victim in a chokehold, banged his head on the floor, stomped on him. and robbed him.  Calhoun’s bail was denied.

“It’s the second beating we’ve had downtown so all this nonsense about the violence going away, it’s not going away,” said Zappala.

Zappala said this Thursday, the attorney general will also be weighing in on the violence in our region.

“Is the Mayor painting a rosy picture of things downtown?,” asked Channel 11 investigative reporter Rick Earle. “I don’t follow the Mayor very much. It sounds like he is,” said Zappala.

The Mayor’s office directed us to the Pittsburgh police department which said on-fatal shootings were down by 37.5% in 2023. Police said they have 17 officers and three supervisors working in the downtown substation, which will soon be moving to Wood Street, making them more visible and accessible. Police say those officers also work with the city’s reach team to prevent problems as schools let out.

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