The good news is Bruce Kelley Sr.’s $300,000 straight bond has been drastically lowered by Wilkinsburg Magistrate Kim Hoots.
The bad news: even at the reduced rate of $25,000 his family cannot afford the bond, and he will remain in the Allegheny County Jail until his preliminary hearing, which was postponed until March 3 because a prosecution witness was unavailable.
Kelley Sr., 60, faces several charges including aggravated assault, resisting arrest, interfering with officers, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness.
Even though it is still a straight bond, Attorneys Blaine Jones and Ernest Sharif called the reduction positive as they left Hoots’ court Feb. 19.
“We’re happy with the outcome,” said Jones. “We came here understanding the government wanted a postponement and our thought process immediately shifted to the bond.”
Sharif said reducing the excessive bond was appropriate.
“He’s not a flight risk,” said Sharif. “We don’t believe he is a danger to society at large. So, we think it’s fair.”
Kelley Sr.’s charges stem from a Jan. 31 encounter with Port Authority police that left his son, 37-year-old Bruce Kelley Jr. dead.
According to police, both men were drinking at a gazebo on PAT property near the East Busway. There was a confrontation during which the officers pepper sprayed and tried to Taser Kelley Jr., but the Taser’s leads could not penetrate his coat. Kelley Sr. jumped in and struck one of the officers, a female, allowing the two to flee temporarily.
He was recaptured shortly thereafter. His son, however, continued to resist officers’ attempts to arrest him. Port Authority surveillance video shows him occasionally flashing a small knife while eventually being followed by up to 10 officers, who tried and failed to bring him down, again using Tasers and batons thrown at his legs.
The video does not show officer Brian O’Malley releasing his dog Aren, the younger Kelley defending himself and fatally stabbing the dog, nor O’Malley and a second officer firing a total of 12 rounds into Kelley Jr.
In the days that followed, anger grew as Aren was given a hero’s funeral procession through the city, while the Kelley family struggled to pay for a funeral, even as Kelley Sr. languished in jail.
The officers involved in the shooting remain on paid suspension pending the outcome of an internal investigation, and one by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala into whether or not the shooting was justifiable.
The incident has prompted several activist groups to call for the elimination of using police dogs on people, and for police to add more less-than-lethal options to their arsenals. The Citizen Police Review Board scheduled a special meeting on exploring those options Feb. 23.
Members of the Alliance for Police Accountability will also be at the Port Authority’s regular meeting Feb. 26, and will voice their concerns about police procedures, tactics, training, and the use of dogs against people.
Sharif said his client is “holding up well” and appreciates the community support he’s received.
Black Lives Matter activist Dale Vann, who attended Kelley Sr.’s hearing, said he wants to see justice for his son.
“It’s a life that should not be taken,” he said. “And we can’t come up with these flimsy excuses to justify murder.”
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