Arrest made in string of eatery burglaries

Posted: May 06, 2014

The bearded man in the letterman jacket lingering around 10th and Jackson Streets before midnight Saturday looked familiar to police - like the guy in a security video wanted for a rash of restaurant burglaries in South Philadelphia last month.

Stopping to question him, the Third District patrol officers realized they were onto something when the man showed them what was protruding from his back pocket: a pry bar, screwdriver, gloves,and a flashlight.

One instrument was particularly incriminating, police said. The flashlight 29-year-old Walter Johnson of Point Breeze was carrying in his jeans was engraved "Le Virtu" - an upscale East Passyunk Avenue Italian eatery burglarized along with four other South Philadelphia restaurants on April 24.

In all, police sources said Johnson - who has a record of 25 burglary arrests - confessed to detectives to committing eight commercial burglaries in South Philadelphia in April.

Johnson, police said, was brash and impetuous in his crimes. He worked in bunches, allegedly hitting three eateries just blocks apart in the early morning of April 2. Then, police say, he hit the five restaurants on April 24.

He would pry open the front or back door or a window, and if he couldn't open the register, he would simply take it, police said.

He wasn't picky - and he'd work until he got something, police said.

In his burst of burglaries on April 2, police say, Johnson tried to pry open the front door of a Philadelphia Pretzel Factory franchise on McKean Street, and when he failed, he headed over to Scannicchio's on South Broad Street and got in through the back door - only to find the register empty.

Before calling it a night, he got in the back door of Johnnie's, an Italian spot on South 12th Street, and snatched $100 out of the register, police said.

On April 24, Johnson was even more nervy, hitting Le Virtu and four other eateries on the same street, making off with $950, police said.

Johnson's distinctive jacket - with leather sleeves and resembling a varsity jacket seen in security video from one of the burglaries - was key in his capture. Police bagged it up as evidence when they booked him Sunday.


mnewall@phillynews.com

215-854-2759

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