After a flurry of weekend rumors surrounding 18-year-old Jordan Miles, allegedly beaten by three undercover police officers in January, it appears the case is more stagnant than ever. However, in response to the possibility that the Department of Justice will end their investigation into the incident, the Miles family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the three officers and the city on Aug. 30.
|JUSTICE FOR JORDAN—Tim Stevens holds up photographs of Jordan Miles as he stands outside the courthouse.
“During the FBI’s discussion with us six weeks ago, they said they really didn’t think they had a viable case to go forward because of the credibility of the three officers against the victim Jordan,” said J. Kerrington Lewis, Miles’ attorney. “They required Jordan to submit to a lie detector test, which he passed. The physical evidence alone proves excessive force. The whole story is so irrational and incredible that any jury is going to know it was presented to cover up what they did.”
In the absence of any action by the city, county or federal governments, the lawsuit was filed seeking damages and a permanent injunction to remove officers Michael Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing from the police force.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the investigation was ongoing but declined to comment further. Representatives from the mayor’s office also decline to comment.
“The FBI says the case is still open. I just felt that with (reports) that they were dropping the charges I just felt it was necessary to file our suit and set out the facts. I just want that out there,” Lewis said. “Civil cases are a slap on the wrist compared to criminal cases. You’re not going to send a message to any authorities. This kind of conduct isn’t going to be dealt with properly unless it’s dealt with in a criminal form. The city pays some damages.”
Nearly three weeks ago, activists with the Alliance for Police Accountability stormed the Allegheny County Courthouse demanding that District Attorney Stephen Zappala take action to prosecute the officers.
“The FBI and the Civil Justice Department are running an investigation,” said Michael Manko, Allegheny County District Attorney spokesman. “We are not running a parallel investigation.”
This did not satisfy the crowd who felt the district attorney should take control of the situation. They presented Manko with a petition holding nearly 1,000 signatures.
“The fact of the matter is he has the power to prosecute at any time. Had it been my son, I don’t know what I would’ve done,” said Brandi Fisher, Alliance for Police Accountability director. “We have to keep the pressure on. We’re not saying all police officers are wrong, but these three clearly are.”
Overall the group is disappointed with how long the process is taking and fears Miles will never receive justice. At the very minimum, they don’t understand why the officers wouldn’t at least be charged with excessive force.
“Saldutte, who spoke at the hearing, when you looked at him, his muscles were coming through his suit. He admitted that he has had history in the martial arts, he admitted he is a trainer of police officers and how to defend themselves. There’s no honest excuse for what happened to Jordan Miles,” Stevens said. “To wonder how he couldn’t have taken down Jordan Miles by himself, to wonder how he could’ve been taken down without serious injury is something no one can really explain.”
For updates on how the case is progressing and information on the Alliance for Police Accountability visit Justiceforjordanmiles.com. The group’s next plan of action is in Homewood at 2 p.m. Sept. 18 where they say they will march for justice.
“Part of the frustration is, we’re now in August and when this had occurred it was cold out. It doesn’t seem like it should take eight months for what seems like a pretty straight forward event,” Stevens said. “With no drugs, no weapons, no history, part of the community’s frustration is any layperson of any color at all just feels this is one the police can’t explain. In almost any incidence, police get the benefit of the doubt from the courts, from the judges and part of that is they do have a very difficult job.”