When the U.S. Justice Department began a civil rights investigation of the three officers whose January arrest of CAPA student Jordan Miles left the 18-year-old in the hospital, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala deferred filing any state charges.
Now that the feds have said they wouldn’t pursue the case because they couldn’t win, the ball is back in Zappala’s court, and citizens from across the county are asking him to take his shot.
Several of them, including Miles’ mother, grandmother and sister, delivered a petition to Zappala’s office signed by more than 1,000 county residents, calling for charges against Pittsburgh police officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak.
“We’re asking him to prosecute,” said Brandi Fisher, chair of the Alliance for Police Accountability. “What charges he prefers, we leave to him. But we’d expect assault, false arrest, and perjury to be among them.”
Miles was allegedly beaten during an arrest by three officers who said he was acting suspicious and sneaking through yards in Homewood, and then ran when they confronted him. They also said they thought he had a weapon that they later said was a Mountain Dew bottle they thought was a weapon.
But no bottle was in evidence when they tried to get Miles jailed by District Justice Oscar Petite for assault and resisting arrest. Petite threw out their arrest petition noting it was likely perjured.
After U.S. Attorney David Hickton said federal charges would not be filed, Zappala spokesman Mike Manko told the New Pittsburgh Courier the office would review all the evidence gathered by the FBI before deciding whether or not to prefer charges. That was a month ago. Black Political Empowerment Project Chairman Tim Stevens said the time has come.
“This event has provoked outrage across all racial and economic lines,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many White people have come up to me and are livid at what’s gone on with this case. Charge them, let a jury decide.”
Zappala, who was in his office when the petition was delivered, did not emerge. This plus another thousand signatures delivered prior to the FBI investigation and several hundred more delivered online brings the total calling for prosecution to more than 2,000.
“He didn’t come out last time either. I don’t think he wants to face the reality of the situation, face the people,” said Fisher. “What’s taking him so long? The community doesn’t need to hear police are above the law.”
Miles’ mother Terez said her son is doing okay, but is still affected by the incident. They put him in the hospital, she said, and they can’t defend that.
“I pray the district attorney will do the right thing,” she said. “He is not unwise, but for him to allow this to continue is unacceptable.”
When called for comment, Manko only said that everything is “still under review.” He declined to estimate how long the review would take to complete. Miles, in the meantime is continuing to pursue a civil case against the officers.
Stevens called on supporters to join him at a rally outside city council chambers prior to their June 15 public hearing on the reintroduction of police accountability legislation by Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess.
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