Joined by about 60 CAPA students outside Pittsburgh council chambers, Black Political Empowerment Project Director Tim Stevens called on Police Chief Nate Harper to reassign officers Richard Ewing, David Sisak and Michael Saldutte to desk duty. These officers beat CAPA senior Jordan Miles during a Jan. 12 arrest outside his home.
Carrying signs and chanting, the students marched from their school on a windy 26-degree day to demand justice for their schoolmate. Stevens thanked them for, what for most, was their first foray into civil activism.
“I cannot fathom how the Pittsburgh police, could in any reasonable way, defend the beating, stomping, choking and kicking of an unarmed, 5-7, 150-pound teenager by three armed police officers,” said Stevens. “Simply moving the police officers from their former undercover status to uniform status does not properly handle this very troubling situation. These officers are still on the street to possibly brutalize other innocent, non-suspecting citizens.”
Three of Miles’ classmates—Ryan Allen, Ariel Greer and Tatiana Smalley—were among the supporters and said they were still shocked that this happened to their friend.
“I’m still so surprised. Jordan would never do anything violent,” said Greer. “He’s just a really nice guy.
|GET OFF MY STREETS— Black Political Empowerment Project Director Tim Stevens demands the three police officers who beat, Tasered and tore hair from 18-year-old CAPA student Jordan Miles be removed from patrol duty pending a complete investigation.
Allen said the whole incident made no sense.
He doesn’t fight. He makes everybody laugh,” said Allen. “I want him to receive justice, to go back to his old life, to be happy.”
Smalley, a violin student who played in the school’s string quartet with Miles, said she is just glad he is recovering from his injuries.
“He’s a goofy, clumsy guy who cheers people up,” she said. “I want him to win his case.”
According to the police complaint, the officers were on undercover patrol on Tioga Street when they saw Miles at 11 p.m. with a “heavy object” in his coat. They identified themselves and ordered him to stop. The object was later found to be a bottle of Mountain Dew.
Miles’ attorney Kerry Lewis said the honor student was Tasered, and beaten severely after attempting to flee from the officers, whom he claims never identified themselves as police. During the arrest, Miles had chucks of his hair ripped out, was stabbed through the lip with a tree branch and suffered multiple blows to the head. He was treated twice at West Penn Hospital for his injuries.
Lewis said Miles, whose viola playing has earned him top honors at CAPA and the opportunity to perform for first lady Michelle Obama, was only walking between his home and his grandmother’s house and fled because the officers never identified themselves as police.
Steven said the incident reminded him of the police killing of Jonny Gammage, noting the irony that it occurred the day before the 12th anniversary celebration of the Black and White Reunion, a summit created to improve race relations.
“We cannot help but wonder if this was a classic case of “racial profiling,” in this case of ‘walking while Black,’” said Stevens. “Every young African-American male is not a criminal. If this beating can happen to a honor student known to be a ‘good student’ and a ‘good guy,’ a young man with no criminal history, who is safe?”
Harper has reassigned the officers to uniformed patrol duty. All three failed to appear at Miles’ Jan. 18 hearing on charges of resisting arrest and aggravated assault. The city Office of Municipal Investigations is reviewing the incident.
Later in the afternoon, Harper responded, urging patience from all parties.
“We understand the concern from the family, the community and the school children,” he said. “However, there is a due process for both Mr. Miles and the arresting officers. To some, the process may seem slow. However, it is progressing as expeditiously as possible. This investigation will be thorough, and it will reveal the facts.”
Black and White Reunion member Bob Maddock said to see something like this 15 years after Jonny Gammage’s death is frustrating.
“Every year reporters ask us if things are getting better. And we always say, ‘yes, but there’s more to do,’” he said. “So we’re here today to ask city council and the police chief that question.”
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