Person of interest in bank robbery charged with third-degree felony

EAST LIVERPOOL – A man taken into custody Thursday as a person of interest in connection to a robbery at the Home Savings and Loan on Y&O Road has been charged with the robbery itself.

Brian Keith Johnston, 41, formerly of 45969 Y&O Road but now listed as homeless, was charged with the third-degree felony by St. Clair Township Police Friday based on a search warrant executed on a truck he was found driving Thursday morning which matched the description of one used in the robbery at the bank.

According to a report from township police, an officer on patrol spotted the white Ford pickup westbound on Y&O Road and activated his lights in an attempt to stop it. The truck kept traveling until it pulled into the Y&O Road address listed in court records as Johnston’s former address.

Johnston reportedly told Patrolman Max Nolder he had no driver’s license, and when the license plate was checked, Nolder learned the truck had been stolen from James Saunders of Columbiana.

While patting down Johnston, Nolder reported he found large amounts of money in two different pockets, although the specific amounts were not reported.

Nolder reported that throughout this process and the ride to the police station, Johnston “never said a word or asked what was going on.”

According to Chief Don Hyatt, the search warrant of the vehicle turned up evidence that “leads us to the conclusion that this individual was connected to the bank robbery.”

He said, “We believe these items of evidence more than substantiate this charge,” but declined to specify what evidence was discovered.

No weapon was shown during the robbery, with the suspect handing the teller a note demanding money, according to police.

When he was taken into custody Thursday, Johnston was charged with receiving stolen property, no operator’s license and no front license plate.

In East Liverpool Municipal Court Friday, Johnston appeared before Judge Melissa Byers Emmerling via video for arraignment on those charges.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled June 5 on the receiving charge, with $100,000 cash/surety bond set, and a trial was set the same day on the traffic charges.

According to Municipal Court records, Johnston has no employment or income and his only other case involved a fugitive from justice charge from California in 1996.