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Officer Injured During Swap Meet Shootout

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via YellowBrix

September 17, 2010

PITTSBURGH – A city police officer was hospitalized Wednesday after a man struck her with his getaway car during a foiled robbery that spawned a morning shootout and revealed a drug packaging operation just blocks from the North Side police station.

Officer Colleen Bristow, 28, a three-year veteran, suffered a broken elbow and a concussion but was “in good spirits and good condition,” at a hospital, North Side Cmdr. RaShall Brackney said.

The officer was trying to capture one of at least five heavily armed men who police said sought money and drugs from an operation hidden inside The Swap Meet, an indoor flea market at 1225 Brighton Road.

Police arrested three men — Kevin Allison, 20, and Aaron Farrow and Rayshaun Jones, both 24 — and were searching for two more Wednesday night. Charges were pending.

Officers responding to reports of a robbery at the business about 11:30 a.m. encountered the men as they escaped from both sides of the building. The men swapped gunfire with the officers as they scattered, “but by the grace of God, no one was hit,” Chief Nate Harper said.

Officer Bristow, among the first to arrive, found Mr. Farrow inside a gold van on Riversea Road, an alley near the store. She ordered him out of the vehicle, police said, but he put it in reverse instead and struck her with an open door, knocking her to the ground. He drove forward and tried to hit her again as another officer opened fire on the van, shattering the windshield, police said. Mr. Farrow was treated at Allegheny General Hospital for minor wounds he suffered from the broken glass.

Officers fatally shot a dog in the alley. The chief said the dog charged at officers, who fired to “eliminate the threat” that it would hurt them.

Officers saw Mr. Allison toss a gun as he ran, Cmdr. Brackney said; a police dog caught him. Police discovered Mr. Jones hiding in a nearby Dumpster.

A SWAT team assembled amid the chaos because police at first believed two of the gunmen had holed up in a scrap yard next door. SWAT officers spent about three hours searching Paul Warhola Scrap Metals, owner Marty Warhola said, but found no suspects. Mr. Warhola spent the time in his cramped office, watching the search on his security cameras. He said police planned to return to review the images in their search for clues.

A fourth gunman darted to a gas station on Brighton Road and ordered two men out of a rented silver 2010 Dodge Charger at gunpoint. He took off in the car, which police recovered in Manchester with blood on the driver’s side door. The victims told police their assailant was bleeding from the arm, but Cmdr. Brackney said she couldn’t speculate on whether he was shot by police gunfire.

Steve Burton, who said he was driving the Charger, pulled up to a gas pump and went inside to pre-pay. When he headed back out, his passenger ran toward him in a panic, saying a man had taken the car at gunpoint. Neither man was hurt.

Police described the carjacking suspect only as a thin black man between 5 and 6 feet tall. They are looking for at least one other man, for whom they offered no description.

Seized were a semi-automatic handgun, a machine-gun style rifle and another long gun, weapons Chief Harper said might have been tampered with to make them fully automatic, a federal crime. Police also collected bags of marijuana — just some of an unknown quantity inside the Swap Meet, which houses individual stalls rented by vendors and also what police described as a drug-packaging operation.

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