Kopy’s owner says Pagans caused no trouble before brawl with cops
A statement from the Kopy’s bar owner who tended bar the night four Pagan motorcycle club members brawled with undercover officers appears to challenge how Pittsburgh police have described the fight.
The attorney for one of the bikers charged in the brawl contends the police officers were drunk and started the fight because the cops didn’t like how the motorcycle club members were dressed.
“Our position is that my client was not engaged in any criminal activity, was not the subject of an investigation, but rather was the subject of drunk police officers who didn’t like the way they were dressed,” said Lee Rothman, the attorney for Frank Deluca, who faces charges of aggravated assault, conspiracy and riot along with three others of the Pagan motorcycle club.
Security footage from inside the bar also shows one undercover officer punching Deluca in the head at least a dozen times. The fight occurred about 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 12 at the South Side bar. Four Pagans fought with several undercover Pittsburgh police officers who were at the bar investigating a drug complaint, authorities have said.
Public Safety spokesman Chris Togneri said the department cannot comment on ongoing investigations, though investigators are reviewing all video footage. The incident is being reviewed by the Office of Municipal Investigations and the Citizens Police Review Board.
A court affidavit from Stephen Kopy indicates that the undercover officers came in about 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11 and identified themselves as construction workers. They ordered alcoholic drinks, Kopy wrote. The Pagans came in about 11:30 p.m. and sat at the opposite end of the bar.
“On several occasions, the undercover officers called me over and made statements indicating that they had an issue with the bikers at the other side of the bar,” Kopy wrote. “Each time I discouraged them from taking action.”
Twice before the fight, one of the officers spoke to the Pagans, but Kopy was not certain what was said, he wrote in the affidavit. Shortly before 12:30 a.m. Oct. 12, one officer identified himself as an undercover officer and told Kopy “he liked me and did not want to see anything happen to my bar,” according to the affidavit.
Kopy wrote that the officer said the bikers were dangerous. When he asked for clarification, the officer said the bikers were “staring and pointing at them,” according to the affidavit. He wrote that he did not see the bikers staring or pointing.
One officer asked Kopy what he and the bikers had spoken about, Kopy wrote, and wanted to know if he was associated with the Pagans.
“I was then asked by one of the undercover officers whether I was ‘siding’ with the bikers,” Kopy wrote in the affidavit. “I told them that I was not ‘siding’ with the bikers. I just did not agree with the undercover officers that the bikers were trying to cause trouble.”
Kopy wrote that as the bikers got up to leave, the officers stopped them and began talking to them. He said he called 911 when one of the officers and one of the Pagans began arguing. Uniformed officers arrived, and Kopy wrote that he was hit with pepper spray.
Video from the bar shows a conversation between the undercover police and Pagans beginning cordially. It shows Deluca shaking the hands of two of the officers. Rothman said the incident escalated with officers who “were highly intoxicated and agitated because members of a motorcycle club came in dressed a certain way.”
Rothman contends that the video shows the officers drinking for hours beforehand. He said he counted one who “had four Jack Daniels on the rocks – full glasses – within one hour and never stopped drinking.”
Deluca pushed one of the undercover officers, sparking an all-out brawl. Uniformed officers arrive on scene, called by the undercover officers because they’d been outted as cops, according to the criminal complaint filed against the Pagans.
Deluca, Michael Zokaites, Bruce Thomas and Erik Heitzenrater have been charged in connection to the fight. A preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday was continued until Nov. 6.
The footage shows one officer holding Deluca against the bar while an undercover detective punches him repeatedly in the face. Rothman said Deluca has damage to his orbital bone and elbow and, as a union electrician, is now unable to work.
Kopy’s affidavit also covered the aftermath of the brawl.
Some time later, two of the undercover officers returned to the bar with three or four uniformed officers, a lieutenant and a detective, he wrote.
Kopy wrote that the lieutenant asked if the bikers were regulars, to which he replied they were not. He said the lieutenant asked why he let them into the bar wearing their Pagan club jackets, and Kopy told them he had no reason not to let them in.
The lieutenant asked why Kopy did not have a dress code for his bar, and he responded that he never needed one.
“The lieutenant then stated that ‘this was my fault for letting them in with jackets,’” Kopy wrote. “I responded that the bikers did not cause the fight and the lieutenant then began screaming to me about the bikers being dangerous and referenced that they had gun and that someone could have been shot or killed.”
That would have led to the bar being shut down, Kopy said the lieutenant told him, and he would have to “live with a dead customer on my conscience,” according to the affidavit.
Later, two of the undercover officers asked Kopy if he’d outed them as cops to the bikers, according to the affidavit. Kopy told them he’d been unaware they were law enforcement until just before the fight.
One week later, a city detective came to remove the security camera hard drive and make a copy, Kopy wrote. Kopy had also provided copies to attorneys for the bikers and the Pittsburgh Police Citizens Review Board after they requested them.
The detective told Kopy that during the process the data was lost and the security system would not work.
“Upon stating that the data might be lost, I informed that the (review board) and the bikers’ defense attorney had copies to which (the detective) sounded surprised to hear such news,” Kopy wrote.
Kopy’s affidavit was signed Monday, Oct. 22, along with a notary.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.