By Torsten Ove and Jim McKinnon
Copyright 2006 P.G. Publishing Co.
State and Pittsburgh police blocked off streets and highway ramps in Oakland for several hours yesterday afternoon as they surrounded a house where they thought a serial bank robbery suspect might be.
But it turned out the subject of the siege, 34-year-old Brian Guiney, wasn't inside the house at 4 Hodge St.
He had been there earlier in the day, though, sometime after a bank robbery in Munhall in the morning.
If Mr. Guiney did rob the First Commonwealth Bank yesterday, it would be his third in two weeks. He is wanted on charges of robbing two Squirrel Hill banks last week.
Police believe he escaped from the Hodge Street area on foot because the stolen minivan he was driving was parked nearby, but he may also have caught a bus.
"Anything's possible," said Sgt. Aaron Beatty of the city robbery squad, as the Special Emergency Response Team packed up its gear. "It looks like we were just a step behind him."
Knowing Mr. Guiney hung out in the Greenfield and Oakland areas, Sgt. Beatty and his partner were patrolling the streets there when they spotted the green Saturn minivan he has been driving.
The vehicle, which police said Mr. Guiney took from a relative, was parked in a lot at Hodge and Bates streets, underneath the Parkway East.
Officers knew Mr. Guiney had been in the house on Hodge, where he has stayed occasionally, earlier in the day and called in the tactical unit to surround it. Although the robber has not displayed a gun during the holdups, bank employees said he did threaten that he had one. Police consider him armed and dangerous.
Late yesterday afternoon police called off the search for the suspect, while detectives searched the minivan for evidence and clues about the robberies and where Mr. Guiney may have gone.
Two warrants have been issued for Mr. Guiney, whose last known address was on Saline Street, for two holdups on Murray Avenue last week. He's accused of robbing the Parkvale Savings Bank on Oct. 24 and the National City bank on Friday.
The Friday robbery caused a stir because another robber hit another bank across the street in Squirrel Hill while police were still processing the first one. But the bandit in that case is not the same man.
Police said Mr. Guiney is known to frequent Greenfield, Homestead and Duquesne, and sometimes stays in hotels along Route 51.
The robber of the Munhall bank yesterday was described as a white man in his mid-30s who passed a demand note, just as the robber did in Squirrel Hill.
Agent Jeff Killeen, a spokesman for the FBI, said agents are looking into "the likely possibility" that Mr. Guiney is their man.
Suspect in 3 bank robberies eludes Calif. police