New Castle News

January 27, 2014

Police take custody of accused bank robber

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — A man drinking coffee downtown Thursday reported seeing a man park his truck, then walk toward Huntington Bank.

He told New Castle police the truck was in the former Hudson Lunch parking lot. He said he had waved to the man, who had waved back and walked across East Washington Street toward the bank. That was around noon.

Minutes later, sirens were screaming toward the downtown and bank employees were locking the institution’s doors.

The man in the truck spent Friday night in the Lawrence County jail, accused of robbing Huntington Bank.

New Castle police arrested Richard Joseph Bruni Sr., 37, of 432 Boyles Ave. in connection with the robbery, which occurred at 12:07 p.m. according to bank records.

Bruni is in jail on $100,000 bond following his arraignment late Friday afternoon before District Judge Melissa A. Amodie. His preliminary hearing is set for Thursday.

Bruni also is a suspect in robberies at the GNC Community Federal Credit Union, also in downtown New Castle, on Dec. 26, and the FirstMerit Bank branch in Neshannock Township on Jan. 7.

Charges in those two incidents are expected to be filed against him next week, according to New Castle Police Chief Bobby Salem and Neshannock Police Superintendent John Rand.

City officers arrested Bruni shortly before 4 p.m. Friday when they found him at the home of his girlfriend’s parents in the 300 block of Winter Avenue.

Bruni is accused of stealing $750 from Huntington Bank after he had handed the teller a note that said he had a gun and was demanding money, according to court documents.

Bruni is charged with two counts of robbery and one count each of terroristic threats, theft and receiving stolen property.

Police said they were summoned to the bank by a panic alarm and alarm company personnel told officers they could see employees on camera locking the bank doors.

A teller told police that the robber had approached her station and handed her a note that said, “I have a gun, give me all your twenties and fifties, no button.”

She said the man was calm and did not call attention to himself. She initially thought he wasn’t serious, she told police, but then complied.

After she handed him money, he said, “Give me your other twenties,” then demanded five- and 10-dollar bills, she told police. She said he took the money and left with the note, but never showed a weapon.

Police, who interviewed bank personnel, learned no one else in the bank had been aware a robbery was occurring.

Officers said Bruni had been identified through several anonymous tips submitted through the New Castle police website by people who had seen his picture and recognized him.

When police went to his house on Boyles Avenue, they found fresh vehicle tracks in the snow where, they learned, he typically would park his black GMC truck, according to court documents. They issued a bulletin for the truck, which had ladder racks and a broken window.

The man who reported seeing Bruni downtown before the robbery told police the black pickup he had seen had ladders on top and the right window was broken out with blue tape around it.

The investigating officers spoke to a woman at Bruni’s house, who said he had told her he was going to Pittsburgh to get paid for a roofing job.

They said she initially had told them Bruni was going there to do roofing work, until they questioned her about why he was working on a roof in 7-degree weather.