Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today gave his account of a 2005 argument with a police officer that has become the subject of rampant rumors, calling the spreading fire of speculation "politically motivated."
On Oct. 31, 2005, the mayor said, he was near the front of an unruly throng outside of Heinz Field shortly before a Steelers night game.
"Myself and other individuals in the front were really not even in control of ourselves," he said. "We couldn't control ourselves because of the force from behind.
"It was at that point that an officer went charging into the crowd, a crowd that included men, women, and children, at which time he was very aggressive and authoritative.
"At which time I, verbally, expressed my objections to the manner in which he was treating the crowd at Heinz Field that evening."
The officer, who Mr. Ravenstahl confirmed was Mark A. Hoehn, then retreated from the "uncontrollable" crowd, the mayor said. Mr. Ravenstahl, who was then a city councilman, went with him.
"I told him who I was, and I told him I didn't appreciate the way he was treating the fans, and I didn't appreciate the manner in which he represented the city of Pittsburgh," he said. "He expressed back to me that he didn't care for my opinion and didn't care what I had to say. But I didn't back down."
Ofcr. Hoehn then handcuffed Mr. Ravenstahl and brought him into Heinz Field. The then-councilman sat, handcuffed and alone, for 10 or 15 minutes, he said. He was then taken into a security office.
"I acknowledged that there was a way that I more properly could have handled talking with him, and he acknowledged that there was probably a way that he could have more adequately handled the situation. We agreed that we were both wrong in some respects, and like men we shook hands."
There was no arrest, and no paperwork completed in relation to the incident, he said. "No report was ever issued. Nothing was ever filed."
Mr. Ravenstahl confirmed that he had consumed "some alcoholic beverages" before entering the line, but said he was not intoxicated. He said he used swear words in his interactions with Ofcr. Hoehn, but "at no time did I physically contact the officer."
He said he had been separated from the friends with whom he arrived at the game, and could not name any witnesses, other than Ofcr. Hoehn.
Ofcr. Hoehn has refused comment. Mr. Ravenstahl said Mr. Hoehn and other involved officers, including John H. Fisher Jr., who was in charge of city officers working Heinz Field security that night, have not been instructed on whether or how to address media questions about the incident.
"I would welcome [Mr. Hoehn] to tell his side of the story, to be honest with you," the mayor said, adding that bureau policy generally bars statements by rank-and-file officers to the media, and he would not order Ofcr. Hoehn to break that policy.
"Could I have handled it in a different way? Certainly," he said. "But I don't apologize for defending those individuals in that crowd, because I felt that somebody had to do it.
"I took one for the team, so to speak."
"I was treated no differently than any other individual would have been in this case, and I think that's very, very important to note.
"I feel, and felt, and still do, that I have an obligation, or had an obligation, as a councilman that represented the North Side, as an elected official, to say something.
"I understand when you're the mayor, and you're in a high-profile position, people want to allege things, or spread rumors, or make more out of situations than they are, and it's unfortunate that this happened in this case," he said. "I can go to bed comfortably at night knowing what happened."