Pa. officers accused of beating teen suspended
The teen alleges that the officers beat him without provocation
PITTSBURGH — The city of Pittsburgh has suspended three police officers while officials investigate accusations that they beat up a black teenage arts student who was walking to his grandmother's house after dark, the mayor said Monday.
The city agency that handles police misconduct allegations has agreed to complete its investigation of the Jan. 12 confrontation by month's end, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. It must do so before any decision is made on whether to fire the officers.
"Since the investigation will take several weeks to complete, the immediate action I call for today is necessary for the safety of the officers involved, their colleagues and the peace of mind and safety of the entire community," Ravenstahl said.
The officers have been suspended with pay, the most the mayor is empowered to do at the moment. He declined to answer specific questions about the confrontation and investigation because the teen's attorney said he expects to sue.
The officers were removed from plainclothes duty after the accusations and were working as uniformed officers. Now "they won't be working at all," Chief Nate Harper said, before declining to comment further. Police union president Dan O'Hara didn't immediately return a call and e-mail seeking comment.
Jordan Miles, an 18-year-old violist who attends Pittsburgh's prestigious Creative and Performing Arts High School, alleges that plainclothes officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak beat him without provocation, then concocted a story that he was acting suspiciously to justify the confrontation.
A criminal complaint says Miles was standing against a building "as if he was trying to avoid being seen." The officers say they saw something heavy in his pocket and believed he was carrying a gun - which police said turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew - though Miles said he didn't even have the soda in his pocket when he was punched, kicked and had dreadlocks pulled from his scalp.
Miles faces a preliminary hearing Feb. 18 on charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest on accusations that he fought the officers but says all he did was try to get away from three men he thought were trying to abduct him.
"The first thing that has to be addressed is the charges against Jordan," his attorney, John Lewis said. "I'm interested in having those dismissed, because he's a victim and he committed no crime."
"In the affidavit police said they suspect him of being on drugs - that's why they claim he was able to resist three street-tough narcotics officers," Lewis said, noting that the teen has tested negative for drug use.
Terez Miles, Jordan's mother, called the suspensions "a step in the right direction" but said she won't be satisfied unless the officers are fired. She, too, said her immediate priority is getting the charges dropped against her son.
"They couldn't justify beating Jordan so they made up a story, and I would like to see those charges dropped," she said. "Those are trumped-up charges."