Marie's Pizza Shooting: Suspects Back in Court in May

By: Whitney Martin, Lauren Kravets, Stephen Johnson, Meghan Dwyer Email
By: Whitney Martin, Lauren Kravets, Stephen Johnson, Meghan Dwyer Email

UPDATE April 30: Our Facebook fan Steven wanted to know what's the latest in the Marie's Pizza shooting. Here's where each case stands.

Lamar Coates, Desmond Bellmon, and Brandon Sago still face murder charges and they will all be back in court in May, but not at the same time.

A judge has ruled at least Bellmon will be tried separately. After looking at surveillance video from that night, Bellmon's attorney says Bellmon and Brandon Sago were running away from the pizza place when off-duty sheriff's deputy Frank Pobjecky shot and killed Michael Sago.


UPDATE Dec. 18:

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The three suspects in the Marie's Pizza shooting must give a sample of their DNA to the court. A judge ruled today that the suspects must provide salvia samples.

Police found clothing, masks, and blood at the scene of the crime. DNA from that evidence will be compared to DNA samples taken from Brandon Sago, Lamar Coates and Desmond Bellmon.

Whether or not the DNA samples can be used for solving other criminal cases is still up in the air.


UPDATE Dec. 1:

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Everything that went down inside Marie’s Pizza the night of the fatal shooting was caught on tape--23 News learned that while in court today.

Desmond Bellmond and Brandon Sago were still in wheelchairs today; the courtroom was packed with their loved ones.

Today Bellmond plead not guilty to all the charges against him including first degree murder.

We've also learned that Marie's Pizza had surveillance video and there's a recording of what happened that night. Prosecutors objected to giving a copy of that tape to the defense, saying they are worried it might accidentally be made public. The state also wants some of the men to submit to DNA testing so their DNA can be matched to what was found at the crime scene.

The judge revoked bond for Lamar Coates: that means he no longer has the opportunity to get out of jail because he's considered too dangerous. It has not yet been decided whether the three men will be tried at the same time.

Prosecutors said they didn't want copies of the surveillance tape floating around because of the media coverage this case has generated, but the judge ruled the tape has to be turned over to defense attorneys.


UPDATE: The 16-year-old shot and killed while allegedly robbing Marie's Pizza had both drugs and alcohol in his system.

The Winnebago county coroner says Michael Sago's toxicological report came back positive for marijuana. They aren't releasing the amount found, but sago's blood alcohol level was just below the legal limit. An off duty sheriff's deputy shot sago and three other suspects just over a month ago.


ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Today was the first of many court hearings to come in the deadly Marie’s Pizza robbery.

Some of the defendants had to be wheeled into court today because they are still suffering from gunshot wounds.

Lamar Coates is out of the hospital now. He was the only defendant not in a wheelchair. All three defendants--Coates, Brandon Sago and Desmond Bellmon--were ordered not to have any contact with each other, Marie's Pizza, or Frank Pobjecky--the sheriff's deputy who shot them.

Sago is still being held without bond, but the judge set bail for Bellmon and Coates at 3-million dollars. A crowd of young girls was there to see the court's outcome.

The defendants will all be back in court December 1. In addition to this case Coates has five other criminal cases pending against him and Bellmon has two other criminal cases pending against

These cases haven't been consolidated yet so even though the cases are similar the three have different lawyers. The cases are in different places. Sago's lawyer just hasn't asked for bail to be set yet, but Coates and Bellmon would each have to come up with 300-thousand dollars in order to get out.


Suspect Photos Released
ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Police have released mugshots of the three surviving suspects:

Brandon SagoDesmond BellmonLamar Coates

Charges Updated

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Charges have been filed against suspects in the Marie’s Pizza shooting

The men who allegedly tried to rob Marie’s Pizza last month could spend the rest of their lives in prison if convicted. They are all being charged with numerous offense: the most serious of which is first degree murder.

A grand jury has indicted the men on 21 counts of murder, armed robbery, and weapons violations. One of the men, Lamar Coates, is being held at a hospital in Madison. He's expected to be released soon to the Dane County Jail. None of the suspects will be able to bond out of jail.

Sago and Bellmond will be back in court October 27th. Court proceedings will reveal whether or not the men will be tried together or separately.

The charges are as follows (Charge, counts, class, sentence duration):

I. First Degree Murder 8 counts Class M Felony 20-60 years (4) 35-75 years (4)

II. Attempt First Degree 2 counts Class X Felony 21-45 years

III. Armed Robbery 4 counts Class X Felony 21-45 years

IV. Attempted Armed Robbery 4 counts Class 1 Felony 4-15 years

V. Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery 3 total – 1 count each Class 1 Felony 4-30 years extended term eligible

VI. Aggravated Unlawful Use of Weapon 6 total – 2 counts each Class 2 Felony 3-14 years extended term eligible

VII. Unlawful Possession of Weapons 3 total – 1 count each Class 3 Felony 2-10 years

VIII. Mob Action 3 total – 1 count each Class 4 Felony 1-6 years extended term


Deputy Pobjecky Cleared to Return to Duty

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Deputry Frank Pobjecky has been reinstated to his normal working assignment following his involvement in the Marie's Pizza shooting.

You may remember at the beginning of October he was involved in a shooting incident that happened during a robbery at Marie's Pizza.

Police say Pobjecky shot the four robbery suspects with a gun owned by the business--one of the suspects died as a result of his injuries. The three surviving suspects are being charged with the killed suspect's murder.

According to the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office, "It is important to recognize that Deputy Pobjecky was injected into a situation created by four armed robbery suspects who were carrying out a violent forcible felony while armed with a weapon. This was a real time, dynamic situation in which Deputy Pobjecky was in fear of his life and the lives of others in the business at the time of this robbery. It is our opinion that there was no opportunity for Deputy Pobjecky to react differently or use any other alternative action based upon the actions of the four suspects."

The incident was investigated by the Rockford Police Department and then reviewed by the Winnebago County State's Attorney and Grand Jury. All investigations support Pobjecky's actions.

The sheriff says Pobjecky doing well under the circumstances. He's been cleared to return to work whenever he feels up to it.


Oct. 6 Update Criminal Records

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- We have new developments tonight in the Marie's Pizzeria shooting: all three defendants have lengthy criminal records.

One of the men was allowed to walk out of jail as recently as August.

Lamar Coates, Desmond Bellmon, and Brandon Sago have all been in and out of the Winnebago jail this year. The shooting at Marie's Pizza wasn't the first time they've been in trouble together.

In June, Coates and Bellmon were both arrested for mob action--gang activity--and disrupting the peace. They were hit with numerous gun and assault charges.

All three of the men have a history of domestic battery. Bellmon was arrested as recently as Aug. 17th. All three men were able to get out of jail.

While Lamar Coates stayed locked up from June to August of this year a judge let him go on his own recognizance Aug. 9. That means he was able to walk free without paying any money.

There was a 100-thousand dollar bail but for whatever reason on august ninth the judge decided he trusted him enough to release him to probation.


Oct. 5 Story: Murder Charges

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- New information tonight on this weekend's failed robbery attempt where an off duty sheriff's deputy shot and killed a 16-year-old and critically injured three other suspects.

The Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office just announced all three surviving suspects are charged with murder and attempted murder. That's despite Deputy Frank Pobjecky firing the fatal shot.

The three suspects, Desmond Bellmon, Brandon Sago, and Lamar Coates are charged with eight counts of murder for the death of 16-year-old Micheal Sago. They're also each charged with two counts of attempted murder--That's for putting Marie Pizza's owner and Deputy Pobjecky in harm's way. Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia says Sago was shot multiple times after police say he and the suspects attempted to rob the business at gun point.

Accomplices can be charged with murder in the event that another one of the accomplices is killed during the crime.

Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson said, "We’re sending out a strong message with State's Attorney Bruscato with this case, all other future cases, your actions have consequences and if you're going to rob in Rockford, we're going to build a case against you and we're going to present it to the state's attorney."

All three suspects are still in the hospital, but they will be held without bail once arrested. The state's attorney's office is also looking into Pobjecky's actions. They say he acted as a private citizen, not a police officer. Pobjecky is currently on administrative leave. Epperson says the investigation is being treated without regard to Pobjecky's occupation.

Bruscato says he can't comment on how many guns the suspects had or how many shots were fired. He says Illinois prosecutors can't ethically release information that would lead to pre-trial publicity in order to give a fair trial. However,, Bruscato says it is legal for a business to have a gun if they have a FOID card.

Family Reaction

Three of the robbery suspects are related which is making the charges and death of 16-year-old Michael Sago especially difficult for the families involved.

Sago's mother says she's having a difficult time comprehending what's going on --she didn't know of her son's death until the next morning.

Sago’s mother, Torona Wainwright is also mother to Lamar Coats who is currently being charged with his brother's murder. He's in stable condition at a local hospital. The family says it's important to know they're also grieving and say they are aware the boys were in the wrong, but feel they didn't deserve to be shot or killed.

Torona Wainwright said, "I am heartbroken, my mind is gone I don't know what to say to anyone, I am trying to be strong, I have been strong."

Also just to clarify, Brandon Sago, another suspect, is Michael's cousin.

Desmond Bellmon’s his mother says she's heart broken her son is being charged with his best friend’s murder--both families say it’s been hard and weren't raised this way.

23 News also spoke with a member of Pobjecky's family. She did not want to go on camera but says this situation is hard for everyone to cope with.


ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- We’re continuing to follow Saturday night's deadly attempted robbery that caused an off duty- Winnebago County Sheriff's deputy to shoot four suspects--killing a 16-year-old.

New information on the investigation is coming in piece by piece and the Rockford Police Department just released the names of the suspects involved:

Desmond Bellmon, 23, from Rockford
Brandon Sago, 22, from Rockford
Lamar Coates, 23, from Rockford

All three are currently in serious condition. We have no word on whether Brandon Sago is related to the deceased suspect Michael “Mike” Sago. None of the suspects have been charged with any crimes yet.

Winnebago County Sheriff Dick Meyers is speaking out for the first time since the off-duty deputy Frank Pobjecky fired the shots, Meyers says his officer reacted appropriately.

Police say Pobjecky shot and killed 16-year-old Michael Sago.

Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson said, “I do know how many shots were fired but we're not going to release that information because we're preparing the case."

Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia also says she will not release where Sago was shot, although we do know he was shot several times.

It happened Saturday night at Marie’s Pizza on Charles Street. Police say Pobjecky was off-duty talking to one of the three employees inside the restaurant when Sago and three other men walked in and pointed a gun at the owner. Police say a manager also had a gun which he had a Firearm Owner Identification (FOID) card for.

Epperson said, “There was a fight a struggle over the gun the deputy attempted to retrieve to use, once he gained control of that he was able to shoot all four suspects."

Neither the employees nor the deputy were not injured.

Winnebago County Sheriff's deputies are trained to handle these types of incidents off duty, but Sheriff Meyers says those rules don't apply in this case.

Meyers said, "You get in this situation where it turns into a survival issue, it's pretty hard to look at a policy and say it may have been violated, I don't think that will be applicable."

Meyers also says because Pobjecky was off-duty he's considered a typical citizen who was defending himself. Those are all statements the Winnebago County States Attorney will review in the upcoming days.

Meyers said, "We're working as diligently as we can, as quick as we can with our best resources in putting that case together as fast as we can to present it to Bruscato."

Pobjecky is currently on paid administrative leave—as is policy. Sheriff Meyers says the 29-year-old is an excellent deputy and has a clean record. However, he can’t say who had the gun and no lawsuits have been filed so far.

The Winnebago County's Sheriff's department tells us Pobjecky is an Iraq War Veteran and has been with the agency for three and a half years. Sheriff Meyers describes the 29-year-old as an "excellent officer."

Auburn Reaction

We’re learning more about the 16-year-old suspect killed in Saturday's incident. Michael Sago was a student at Auburn High School.

Counselors were on hand today at Auburn to console those who knew Sago. Students say that many of their classmates were seen crying in the hallways, several of which visited the support staff on campus.

Student Denzel Williams said, "It's just like to see him go, it's really hard. It takes a toll on people's hearts and stuff. So it was pretty sad this morning. [There’s] a lot of really sad faces around here today."

Auburn's principal declined to comment on the collective mood of students and faculty.

Online Reaction

More than one hundred people are remembering the suspect who died on the internet

There is a Facebook page memorial for Sago.

Friends and family members are using the social media site to vent about Saturday night's robbery as well as remember the Auburn Student. You can view the page at the link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/RIP-Mike-Sago-Jr/141022235996760.

We've had hundreds of comments about this story on our Facebook page and on this article.
You can view our Facebook page along with the comments here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/WIFR-TV/53942761185.

Many of you are also venting at your keyboards. Here's what some of you are saying on Facebook: Princeton says "It's a very sad loss. Sago was only 16 and i pray for his family to get well."

While Jason Praises the deputy saying, "That man is a hero. Defended this nation and put his life on the line while off the clock. This country needs more Pobjeckys!”

Coroner's Report

Winn. Co. Coroner Sue Fiduccia: Mr. Sago was involved in the incident at Marie's Pizza on Saturday night. He sustained multiple gun shot wounds. Toxicological tests will be available in two weeks,

From the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office:

Sheriff Richard Meyers is releasing information concerning the armed robbery and shooting at Marie’s Pizza, 1513 Charles Street in Rockford on Saturday night, October 2, 2011.

Deputy Frank Pobjecky is 29 years old and was off-duty at the time of this incident. He was a customer patronizing the business and he was acquainted with the establishment’s owner and family. Deputy Pobjecky was hired by the Sheriff’s Office as a deputy on May 9, 2008, and is a veteran of the United States Army. During his enlistment in the Army, Deputy Pobjecky was deployed to Iraq. Deputy Pobjecky is currently on paid administrative leave, which is the standard department procedure for these types of incidents. The Rockford Police Department continues to conduct the investigation into this incident. When the criminal investigation is complete, Sheriff’s personnel will conduct an administrative review of this matter.

Although those processes are yet to be complete and this is not a final decision or determination of what occurred, it appears that Deputy Pobjecky reacted in a manner which is consistent with departmental policy and his training when faced with a violent, life-threatening confrontation with multiple armed robbery suspects. Deputy Pobjecky’s actions were dictated by the actions of four individuals who were committing a violent forcible felony.


Original Story:

Editor's note: we have left the original version of this story online to provide a frame of context for our viewer comments.

ROCKFORD (WIFR)-- Rockford Police along with several other departments are on the scene of an officer involved fatal shooting at Marie's Pizza on Charles Street. ( Near Lincoln Middle School) It happened at around 10:30 Saturday.

Rockford Police Chief, Chet Epperson addressed the media at around 1:00 AM giving minimal details about the case. Preliminary reports show an off duty Winnebago County Sheriff's Deputy was picking up food at the restaurant when four suspects attempted to rob the business. That's when the deputy used a gun he found inside of the pizza place to shoot the suspects, Killing one man and critically injuring three others.

The Rockford Police Department is the lead investigator on the case. We're hoping to hear more information from the Winnebago County Sheriff's Department on Sunday. The deputy's name was not released although we know he was not injured.

The Chief wouldn't comment on the type of weapons the suspects had but originally called the crime an "Armed Robbery" and also mentioned a fight ensuing before shots were fired.

Marie's staff members were extremely upset saying they were worried about the mental welfare of employees being questioned in squad cars. The family also says they have surveillance cameras running constantly.

Stay with WIFR for the latest information, the first media outlet to break this developing story.


Sidebar:

Winnebago County Sheriff Dick Meyers said, "I don't care what he used I mean this thing was a survival situation for him, he's not required to have his gun on him in this situation I wouldn't care if he got the gun away from the robber and used his own gun on him."

Recap:

We understand there's a lot of information to take in so here's a quick recap of the events leading up to today

1) It started out at as an attempted armed robbery at Marie's Pizza at around 10:30 Saturday night.

2) An off Duty Sheriff's Deputy, 29-year-old Frank Pobjecky happened to be inside of the restaurant at the time of the crime.

3) That's when police say one of the suspects pointed a gun at the owner causing Pobjecky to grab another gun inside of the business and shoot four suspects, killing 16-year-old Michael Sago Jr.

4) Again, Winnebago County Sheriff Dick Meyers commends the officer saying he needed to defend himself.

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