The headlines in Thursday’s paper could have been much, much darker than they turned out to be.
We reported that police managed to capture two suspects in Wednesday’s armed robbery of a Plains Township bank following a high-speed highway pursuit and brief foot chase.
Less than an hour after Derek Lee Spaide allegedly brandished a stolen shotgun at a Luzerne Bank teller, he and fellow suspect Gerald Paul Pambianco — the getaway driver, police say — were in custody.
The two men remain innocent until proven guilty, as is the law in this country. We can’t stress that enough.
We also can’t stress how glad we are that the police agencies involved in Wednesday’s investigation and pursuit apprehended the pair as quickly and safely as they did, without any serious injuries or loss of life.
A Plains Township police officer did suffer a shoulder injury during the highway pursuit, and one of the suspects was taken to Geisinger Valley Medical Center after complaining of rib pain.
If, as investigators allege, the pair robbed two houses, conspired to hold up a bank with a gun, and at times drove up to 90 MPH down the highway to escape, it’s fortunate no one was killed, given such an apparent lack of concern for the safety of others.
That is not to minimize the emotional scars others will long have to cope with, however.
Two area families will be struggling with the sense of violation and loss experienced after their homes were ransacked, allegedly by the two suspects.
The bank teller who was menaced with a gun, and her coworkers, will surely be suffering as a result of what happened in their workplace.
The motorist who was stopped on the North Cross Valley Expressway with her child in the car likely will never forget how one suspect allegedly tried to get into the vehicle as he ran from police.
Our hearts go out to all who were affected. But to repeat, this all could have been so much worse.
It could have been worse were it not for sharp-eyed Pittston Township police, who spotted the suspect vehicle on Interstate 81 and began to pursue the maroon Honda — not fooled by the suspects’ idea of covering up the license plate, as they allegedly later confessed
It could have been worse if Plains Township police had not blocked the speeding Honda on the Cross Valley using a “PIT” maneuver.
Known variously as a precision immobilization technique, pursuit intervention technique or precision intervention tactic, it’s designed to stop fleeing vehicles by bumping them diagonally from behind. That causes the suspect’s car to abruptly turn sideways and spin out.
The PIT maneuver can be risky — especially at higher speeds — and is typically reserved for situations in which ending the pursuit is deemed necessary to protect public safety. It is usually performed only with other police vehicles close by, so that the suspect’s vehicle can be immediately surrounded and blocked in. Photos from Wednesday’s PIT maneuver clearly show the maroon Honda surrounded by Plains, Pittston and Pennsylvania State Police vehicles.
Everything the suspects allegedly confessed to under questioning, plus their previous history of arrests, suggests the public could have been in real, continuing danger had police not stopped them.
Based on what we can see as outside observers, we believe the officers involved did the right thing on the Cross Valley, demonstrating good judgment and training.