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Violent arrest on Pittsburgh’s South Side sparks investigation

Megan Guza
ptrflats01050917
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The Flats on Carson, a bar on the South Side, on Monday, May 8, 2017.
ptrflats02050917
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
The Flats on Carson, a bar on the South Side on Monday, May 8, 2017.

A video clip of a violent weekend arrest on the South Side has prompted an investigation into the tactics Pittsburgh police used, including a kick to the suspect’s head.

Three different entities are investigating the incident outside an East Carson Street bar around closing time Sunday morning, according to Mayor Bill Peduto, but he noted that the 10-second video cannot tell the whole story.

He said the Office of Municipal Investigations will investigate.

“I learned from the (Pittsburgh) Pride Parade that a short video doesn’t necessarily tell the whole tale,” Peduto said, referencing a 2014 incident in which a short video appeared to show an officer using excessive force against a woman at Pride Fest. Further investigations cleared the officer .

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is doing its own internal investigation, and the Citizens Police Review Board has also opened an inquiry into the incident, according to Executive Director Beth Pittinger.

“It’s 10 seconds of video that show up at the end of something,” Pittinger said. “We’re trying to reconstruct from the start whatever instigated the encounter in the first place so we can see if what we all saw was a reasonable outcome.”

The incident began about 2 a.m. Sunday outside The Flats, an East Carson Street bar, according to the criminal complaint filed by Officer Raymond Toomey. He said security called him to the bar because a man – later identified as 26-year-old Nathan H. Stanley III – was threatening security outside the bar.

Toomey wrote that he tried to find out why Stanley was irritated.

“(Expletive) ya’ll, man, Western Pennsylvania is racist as (expletive),” police reported Stanley saying. “That’s why ya’ll cops getting shot.”

Toomey said in the complaint he attempted to move Stanley along, but he then mimed shooting at the bar. When Toomey tried to arrest Stanley, he made the same motion and said, “I got something for you, too.”

“Given the previous threats by (Stanley), his aggressive demeanor towards myself and bar security, and the manner in which he reached for his waistband area with his right hand, I greatly feared that an attack was imminent at the time and I did not know what (Stanley’s) capabilities were,” Toomey wrote in the complaint.

Stanley allegedly resisted arrest and grabbed on to a street sign to avoid being handcuffed, according to the complaint. Another officer arrived, Toomey said, and Toomey punched Stanley twice in his midsection and twice in the face, according to the complaint.

The two officers got Stanley to the ground, though he allegedly pulled his arms under body to avoid handcuffs, according to the complaint.

“I then delivered one knee strike and one kick to (Stanley’s) facial area out of fear that (Stanley’s) arms were underneath his body because he was still attempting to reach towards his waistband for a weapon,” Toomey wrote in the complaint.

A video circulating on social media appears to show that portion of the altercation.

The 10-second video was taken by bystander Damian Trott, according to Tribune-Review news partner WPXI-TV.

“What I saw when I walked up was two officers and a bouncer on top of a guy and a couple of vicious knees to the head and a kick,” Trott told the TV station.

He said he did not see what happened before he started recording.

The officers handcuffed Stanley, who Toomey said continued to “scream profanities and encourage the crowd to cause violence towards officers on scene,” according to the complaint.

Stanley was taken first to UPMC Mercy and then cleared to be taken to the Allegheny County Jail, according to the complaint. Court records show he posted $10,000 bond and was released Sunday.

Officers did not indicate whether they found a weapon on Stanley.

Trott told WPXI “it was a pretty brutal scene to walk up on.”

Peduto said investigators will review footage from security cameras in the area.

“The officers and the witnesses will be talked to as well, and (we’ll) try to get an understanding in the escalation of force and what could have warranted it, if it was warranted,” he said.

Mayoral primary candidate John Welch released a statement saying the incident exceeded reasonable restraint and “flies in the face of reforms former chief Cameron McLay worked to implement within the bureau and undermines the work he and U.S. Attorney David Hickton presented through a committee tasked with examining how to improve police/community relations.”

Welch has been the chief chaplain for the city’s police bureau since 2008, according to a biography on his campaign website.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter at @meganguzaTrib.

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