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Victim 'Almost Sure' Penn Was Robber

April 06, 1985|DAVID FREED | Times Staff Writer

Edward Prosinski never got a good look at the man who robbed him at gunpoint as Prosinski stood at a 24-hour bank teller machine in the Clairemont area on Dec. 17, 1983. But Prosinski was "almost sure" that the man was Sagon Penn, who was later found near the scene with a gun and Prosinski's wallet.

Prosinski's uncertainty in identifying his assailant may explain why charges of armed robbery against Penn were eventually dropped. The Southeast San Diego man is now accused of killing a San Diego police officer Sunday and wounding two other people.

On Friday, Prosinski, 26, said he was "kind of angry" that Penn, 23, was never prosecuted after the 1983 robbery.

"They just said there was a lack of evidence, but I think there was plenty of evidence," Prosinski said. "Maybe if they hadn't of dropped the charges, that cop wouldn't be dead."

After earlier reports indicating that Penn had never been arrested before Sunday's shooting, police disclosed this week that Penn was, in fact, taken into custody with two other men minutes after Prosinski was robbed.

Authorities, however, have refused to say why Penn was never prosecuted. Penn's attorney, Robert E. Slayton, did not respond Friday to telephone calls seeking a comment on the arrest.

Prosinski, a San Diego swimming pool cleaner, said that on the night he was robbed, he had gone to a Wells Fargo Bank teller machine on Balboa Avenue to withdraw cash. As he did so, he said, he noticed a black man trying to open the doors of a medical building a few feet away. Prosinski said he didn't pay any attention to the man.

Prosinski had just removed $20 from the teller machine when he felt the barrel of a handgun shoved into his back. He said he was ordered to remove more cash from the machine.

"I took out $100, the maximum amount, and the guy was mad about that," Prosinski said. "He ordered me to lay face down. He took my wallet and then he stepped on my head, which made me mad."

Prosinski said he got up and chased the robber to a nearby parked car, where a second black man jumped out of the driver's side door. As he fumbled to open the passenger door, the robber turned and pointed a gun at Prosinski.

"He told me to stop or he was going to blow me away," Prosinski said. "I didn't get a good look at the guy, but I'll never forget the gun--it was a small .38, I think. Anyway, I said to myself, 'What am I doing chasing a guy with a gun?' so I went and hid behind a tree."

Prosinski then telephoned the Police Department.

A few minutes later, an officer saw Penn sitting under a bush beside a nearby apartment building. Penn was chanting and holding a string of rosary beads. A small revolver and Prosinski's wallet were discovered lying next to him.

Penn and two other men rounded up in the same area were booked into the County Jail on suspicion of armed robbery. They were released when the district attorney's office declined to pursue the case.

"I was almost sure (Penn) was the guy, but I couldn't be definite," Prosinski said. "When I asked the detective about it later, how come they dropped the charges, he really couldn't give me a good answer."

Penn has pleaded innocent to Sunday's fatal shooting of Police Officer Thomas E. Riggs, 27. He also has pleaded innocent to wounding Officer Donovan J. Jacobs, 28, and a civilian who was riding with Riggs, Sara Pina-Ruiz, 32.

All three were shot with Jacobs' service revolver, which Penn allegedly wrested from Jacobs during a scuffle with the two officers.

Jacobs remained hospitalized Friday with a neck wound, and his condition was reported to be improving. Police Department investigators hope to speak with him early next week about Sunday's shooting. He has been unable to discuss the shootings because of his condition.

Pina-Ruiz was released from Mercy Hospital on Thursday. She suffered superficial gunshot wounds.

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