Video of Pride parade arrest raises police brutality questions

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It’s only a few seconds long, but a cell phone video shot during the arrest of 19-year-old Ariel Lawther during Pittsburgh’s Gay Pride parade shows her being hit several times by a police officer during her arrest.

The arresting officer Souroth Chatterji has been removed from street patrol pending an investigation. Mayor Bill Peduto, joined by Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar, acting police Chief Regina McDonald and City Council members Dan Gillman and Bruce Kraus, said during a press conference June 16 they want to see more video.

“We’re going to be actually asking for additional video. There should be an opportunity for us to be able to see the entire incident, and not just that one clip, to find out what happened,” he said. “There are professional standards on the escalation of force and we want to make sure what happened falls within the standards, and not rush to judgment until such time that we can see exactly what happened. We should be able to get additional video. The chief is already working through investigations to be able to do that”

Bucar said the incident is an example of why he was brought to the city.

“I was hired to come in here and bring objectivity and fairness to the Department of Public Safety and do a thorough review based on my background. This is the first part of that,” he said. “All of these types of incidents will be reviewed and investigated very fairly and objectively without any predisposition on either side.”

According to Chatterji’s incident report, Lawther was yelling at some anti-gay marriage preachers near the corner of Sixth Street and Liberty Avenue. At one point she shoved one of them. Chatterji moved to break it up by getting between them, and at that point Lawther struck him in the groin. He said after he moved her to an open area to handcuff her, he punched her several times. His report also notes that once handcuffed, Lawther apologized.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you were a cop,” she reportedly said. “I’m sorry I hit you.”

Peduto and Bucar said the matter has been turned over to the Office of Municipal Investigations for determination.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

 

 

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