by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, August 2011) Using images captured on security cameras along Madison Avenue, police captured an armed robbery suspect who later confessed to fourteen armed robberies.
According to a police report filed by Detective Lawrence McGervey of the First District Detective Bureau, the suspect, Michael Steele, robbed Frank’s Tackle Shop at 10802 Madison Avenue just after 7 a.m. on Saturday July 2nd. He reportedly entered the rear door while the merchant was cleaning the minnow tanks. He forced her at gunpoint to open the register and then into the bathroom while he gathered cash and items from the store including cigarettes and some knives. The suspect fled eastbound on Madison Avenue on foot.
Steele fled through the target area where businesses and institutions are monitoring the street with security cameras as part of the Madison Avenue Safety Initiative of SAFE-16. The cameras recorded Steele’s path as he proceeded down to West Boulevard where cameras indicate he turned and entered the first or second house or apartment
SAFE-16 staff member Birgit Hilliard says she was heading out on a vacation fishing trip and stopped at Frank’s Tackle to buy a new fishing rod for her husband. When she learned of the robbery, she made some calls and alerted the SAFE-16 network of property owners and merchants who share internet protocol addresses so they can view multiple cameras focused on Madison Avenue.
SAFE-16 staff member Michael McDonald says alert merchants were able to track the suspect’s path with their cameras and provide him with a quality time stamped image of the suspect with a clear image of his face. The image was time stamped at 7:17 a.m. on July 2nd and shows the suspect carrying a while bag and running down the street. McDonald emailed the image to First District Detective McGervey on Tuesday, July 5th.
The image proved important, as according to the police report, the suspect was wearing a “gator mask” when he robbed the store along with a dark blue hoodie. The bag Steele was carrying matched bags from the store and his clothing fit the description given at Frank’s Tackle.
On July 6th, McGervey went to visit Odyssey Jewelers and Pawn where he hoped to view video images of where Steele went after turning onto West Boulevard. When leaving Odyssey Jewelers, Detective McGervey said he looked across the street and observed a person who matched the suspect’s description in front of an apartment at 2006 West Blvd.
Detective McGervey says he called to get a zone car to check out the suspect. After circling the block, the suspect had left the scene but Detective VanVerth contacted Detective McGervey to tell him that he observed what appeared to be an apartment manager at the West Blvd apartment building and had asked him to identify the suspect from the still camera image. The apartment manager said the image looked like one of the tenants, Michael Steele.
By that evening, the suspect Steele had been located by vice detectives and picked up. Detectives had also conducted a content search of the suspect’s apartment and found some DVDs reported stolen from an adult bookstore on Berea Road along with knives stolen from Frank’s Tackle. Detective McGervey says he was called in to interview the suspect. In the police report, McGervey states “After being advised of his rights and signing an advice of rights form, Steele proceeded to confess to numerous robberies in Cleveland as well as two from the suburbs (Parma, and Brookpark).”
In addition to Frank’s Tackle, Steele confessed to armed robberies in Cleveland that included: three robberies at Adult Mart, 3101 Berea Rd on July 1st, June 19th and March 23rd; Westpark Lawnmower, 12815 Lorain Avenue on June 18th; Liquid Planet 11002 Clifton on June 19th; Izzo’s Café, 10032 Lorain Avenue on June 1st; a Convenience Store, 11006 Detroit Ave on March 8th; Vietnam Market, 5506 Detroit on April 4; Ohio City Pizza, 3223 Lorain on May 5th, and Curvey Consignments at 13902 Puritas on May 12th.
Steele reported to Detective McGervey that he robbed all of the locations alone and traveled on foot or by bicycle. He said he used a gun stolen from his Fairview Park girlfriend. Steele said the weapon did not have a clip and it was not loaded during any of the robberies. McGervey said Steele told him he kept a journal in his bedroom where he wrote about how bad he felt following the robberies.