All 4 cops involved in bar brawl removed from narcotics unit
All four Pittsburgh police officers involved in a South Side bar brawl have been removed from the narcotics unit while the investigation continues, Mayor Bill Peduto said Monday.
The brawl between the undercover officers and members of the Pagans motorcycle club at Kopy’s remains under investigation by the city’s Office of Municipal Investigations, the Citizens Police Review Board and the FBI are investigating the incident, and the police department is conducting its own internal review.
Peduto said new information came to light that led to the decision, though he would not specify what was discovered. He said there is no timetable for the investigations to wrap up.
“We felt it prudent to move all four officers out of narcotics,” he said.
A Public Safety spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
Detectives David Honick, David Lincoln, Brian Burgunder and Brian Martin were working an undercover detail when they arrived at Kopy’s on South 12th Street about 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11. Six members of the Pagans arrived about four hours later. An argument between several of the detectives and at least one Pagan escalated into a brawl about 12:40 a.m. Oct. 12.
Four Pagans — Frank Deluca, Michael Zokaites, Erik Heitzenrater and Bruce Thomas — were arrested. District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. later withdrew the charges. Security footage captured the melee, including one officer punching Deluca 19 times in the head.
Deluca and Heitzenrater have filed lawsuits, and attorneys for the men have alleged the undercover officers were intoxicated.
Peduto previously said city police need to change the department’s policies regarding undercover work.
“With narcotics and vice, you’re going to have situations where officers are involved in a situation where they don’t want to have their cover blown,” he said late last month. “Obviously you’re not going to go to a bar and order chocolate milk, but at the same time there has to be accountability to be able to carry out your job.”
Police have said the four undercover detectives were investigating a drug complaint at the bar. Bartender and owner Stephen Kopy has said the officers identified themselves as construction workers when they arrived.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.