Robbery suspect ID’d on Facebook, waives hearing and heads to trial

A man accused of robbing a Bellefonte store is headed to trial after waiving his preliminary hearing Wednesday.

Police said Eric Anthony Brown, 25, of Philadelphia, robbed Centre Mart on Wilson Street in August 2013, pepper-spraying the clerk, Ahmed Latif, and making off with a cash register containing $1,948 in cash.

Latif initially identified the robber as a black man with hair dyed red with blue stars. The man came to the store around 4 p.m. that day, asking for a job application, then returned at 11 p.m., stayed for a long time and asked to use the phone before pulling out a pink can of pepper spray, shooting it in Latif’s eyes and running out with the cash register.

Bellefonte police reviewed video footage and identified Brown, a recent Rockview state prison inmate with an ex-girlfriend in the borough, as a possible person of interest. The ex, Ashley Thompson, confirmed Brown’s “affinity for stars.”

The one difference was that the suspect had diamond stud earrings. In his release reports when discharged from Rockview, Brown was noted as not having any piercings.

Facebook gave police the final puzzle piece. On Brown’s page, his name referenced stars and a post-release status confirmed newly pierced ears. It also yielded photos with a star-covered T-shirt and star tattoos.

Police showed Latif the Facebook pictures, and “Latif positively identified Brown again, stating that, without a doubt, Brown is the person that committed the robbery.”

Brown’s charges of robbery, aggravated assault and theft exceeding $2,000 were filed with District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker’s office. He also waived separate charges of aggravated assault and theft by unlawful taking, filed with District Judge Allen Sinclair.

Brown is currently incarcerated at Centre County Correctional Facility, with $100,000 bond on each case.