YOUNGSTOWN — A couple arrested Friday in the robbery of a South Side fast food manager this week rehearsed the crime several times, police said.
Arrested on charges of attempted murder and aggravated robbery were Hattie L. Gilbert, 20, 705 E. Judson Ave., and Taran Helms, 20. They are both in the Mahoning County Jail and are expected to be arraigned Monday in Municipal Court.
Police Chief Jimmy Hughes and Detective Sgt. John Kelty also said at a late afternoon news conference announcing the arrests that they probably meant to kill Joseph Kaluza, 42, but instead paralyzed him after he was shot in the neck.
‘‘I personally believe it was part of the whole plan to not leave a witness,’’ Hughes said.
Police say Gilbert followed Kaluza as he left the Indianola Avenue Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant and rammed his car at South and Hilton avenues. As Kaluza called police about the accident, Helms sneaked up on him, shot him in the neck and took $300 from his van, police claim.
‘‘There was no warning,’’ Kelty said.
‘‘There was nothing he (Kaluza) could have done,’’ Hughes added.
Hughes said a member of Gilbert’s family once worked at the restaurant, and the couple planned the robbery. Hughes said they rehearsed it three or four times before pulling it off.
‘‘This was well planned, well thought out,’’ Hughes said.‘‘They watched this guy over a period of time. They were checking his times, checking his whereabouts.’’
Kelty and Lt. Mark Milstead used a video from a Western Reserve Transit Authority bus that showed the car they say followed Kaluza. From there, they used a law enforcement network that listed every car matching that model, year and color in Mahoning County. They narrowed a list of cars to Gilbert’s, which they found behind a vacant home several doors down from her home about 9 a.m. Friday.
Hughes said Gilbert told police about the plot and that her information led them to Helms, who was arrested at his father’s 1204 Salt Springs Road home about 3:45 a.m. by members of the Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force.