Uniontown Ninja

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The Uniontown Ninja is the popular name used by a man who was seen causing mayhem in South Union Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania (near Uniontown, Pennsylvania) while dressed as a ninja. The incendiary story caught national news media attention and generated 2 parody YouTube videos, later revealed to be produced by an off-duty police officer. In 2013, police announced an arrest in the case, later leading to guilty pleas on lesser charges.

April 2011 burglaries[edit]

During the Easter weekend of 2011 (April 23 and 24), a series of car break-ins, up to a dozen, were reported in South Union Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania.[1][2] The suspect was described as a male wearing a ninja outfit and carrying a sword.[2] The man was captured on a neighbor's surveillance camera, with the sword clearly visible.[2] In one incident, neighbor Santino Guzzo spotted the ninja laying flat on the ground and confronted him.[2] According to Guzzo, the ninja jumped up and announced that he had a sword and Guzzo replied "I have a gun."[2] The ninja attacked Guzzo in his car by sticking the sword through a window, and Guzzo grabbed it, cutting himself in process.[2] In another encounter with a neighbor, a woman followed the ninja in her car after seeing him breaking into cars, startling him and causing him to drop a bottle of liquor.[3]

The ninja himself cut his hand on glass during a break-in on a vehicle, leaving a trail of blood.[2][4]

Media attention and off-duty law enforcement-produced parodies[edit]

A screenshot from the YouTube spoof video.

The story of the "Uniontown Ninja" caught national attention, appearing on CNN.[3]

The day after the initial burglaries, a video appeared on YouTube with a man purporting to be the Uniontown Ninja, appropriately dressed as such, demanding that police cease their investigation and demanding a case of Milwaukee's Best.[5] Another video "Return of the Uniontown Ninja" followed on May 1.[5] It was quickly revealed that the video was a parody created by a Pennsylvania State Trooper who was assigned to investigate the ninja case.[6] The trooper claimed that he was merely making fun of a "stupid criminal" in his spare time and with his own equipment; he expressed hope that the video might generate some leads for the case.[6] According to a professor emeritus in criminology from nearby Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the trooper's actions raised issues of law enforcement ethics and freedom of expression.[5]

2013 arrest[edit]

In May 2013, police announced that a 29-year-old man who had been under investigation for an unrelated crime and told the police that he was the Uniontown Ninja.[7] Police said that he admitted to the burglarly but denied stabbing anyone, saying "I open unlocked cars."[8] In October, the man pleaded guilty in Fayette County' mental health court to simple assault and theft from a motor vehicle, both misdemeanors.[9] The felony and other charges were withdrawn.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Man with sword seen breaking into cars". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. April 26, 2011. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Suspect Sought In Car Break-Ins, Attempted Stabbing In Fayette Co.". KDKA-TV. April 25, 2011. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "'Ninja' breaks into nearly a dozen cars". CNN. April 25, 2011. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Witnesses Share Tales Of 'Ninja' Encounter: Man Clad In Black Leaves Trail Of Damage With Sword In South Union". WTAE. April 25, 2011. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Pierce, Paul (May 14, 2011). "Pennsylvania state trooper admits spoofing ninja criminal". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Uniontown Ninja Spoof Created By State Police Cpl.". WPXI. May 14, 2011. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  7. ^ Orlando, Trina (May 27, 2013). ""Uniontown Ninja" Charged In Robbery, Mimics Past Crime". KDKA-TV. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Police: Man admits to being ‘Uniontown Ninja’". WPXI. May 27, 2013. Retrieved August 24, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Zemba, Liz (Oct 10, 2013). "'Uniontown Ninja' admits to assault". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved October 10, 2013.