Report backs police in Jordan Miles case

Expert hired by city says Homewood man must have known they were officers

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Jordan Miles must have known that the three men who approached him on a night two years ago were police, according to a law enforcement expert hired by the city of Pittsburgh to defend it against a lawsuit filed by the young Homewood man.

The officers have consistently said that they identified themselves as such and displayed badges, wrote Joseph J. Stine, who ran Philadelphia's Police Training Bureau and served as chief for New Britain Township, in a report filed in federal court. And Mr. Stine suggested that Mr. Miles couldn't have logically reached the conclusion that the men were common thugs.

"It is my opinion that in order for Jordan Miles not to have known that the males who attempted to stop him and whom he eventually struggled with were police officers, he would have had to believe that three adult white males had come into [a] predominantly Afro-American community in order to rob him," Mr. Stine wrote, despite little precedent for such an attack. "He would have to have not heard any of the constant repetition of 'Police. Stop. Police.' "

On Monday, an attorney for Mr. Miles characterized the report as "not credible" because it assumes the officers' version of events that are in dispute.

"In the dark of night, if three guys in dark clothes jumped out [of an unmarked car], you have to assume that this young man was fearful," countered J. Kerrington Lewis, Mr. Miles' lawyer. "I don't think he cared if they were white, green or blue."

Whether Mr. Miles knew that Michael Saldutte, Richard Ewing and David Sisak were police officers is one of the central issues in the lawsuit filed by the former student of Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts high school, whose swollen face ignited concerns about police tactics.

Mr. Stine's 14-page report is the most detailed outline, so far, of the officers' perspective on the melee.

"He reviewed the file," said city Solicitor Daniel Regan. "And we have maintained that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of our officers, and they acted as any reasonable, well-trained officers would under the circumstances. Mr. Stine agreed."

According to Mr. Stine in a report filed Friday, officers were patrolling a high-crime area, when they saw a man "hiding in the shadows in a lot between two homes." He wrote that the officers turned around their car, identified themselves as police and displayed badges.

Officers Saldutte and Ewing got out of the car. Officer Saldutte "observed something heavy in Mr. Miles' right jacket pocket and he observed Mr. Miles touching the area of the heavy object," Mr. Stine wrote, and concluded that he "has something on him," likely a gun.

Mr. Miles walked away, and when the officers said, "Pittsburgh PD, stop," he ran, Mr. Stine wrote. They caught him, and he elbowed Officer Saldutte in the face, the report said. In an effort to subdue him, the officers punched him in the body, face and head, it said.

An attempt to shock Mr. Miles with a Taser had no effect, it said.

The struggle "ended when a solid blow to Mr. Miles' head [from Officer Ewing's knee] stunned him and the officers were able to restrain him with handcuffs."

The officers found a Mountain Dew bottle, but discarded it, the report said, characterizing the failure to preserve that evidence as "a mistake" understandable in the wake of "what they believed to be a life and death struggle."

Mr. Lewis said that Mr. Stine, as the city's hired expert, naturally accepted the facts most favorable to the police.

"Many of the circumstances that he assumes are facts are not facts," Mr. Lewis said, "and are not what happened, and so the report is not credible."

Chief U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster had laid out a schedule that had both sides' expert reports due last week.

Mr. Lewis said he held off because of "some discussions with the city" which he wouldn't detail, but that Mr. Miles' expert report should be filed by Wednesday.

Charges against Mr. Miles stemming from the incident were dismissed, and U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton opted not to charge the officers criminally.

In an effort to cap its liability, the city in June offered $180,000 to settle the case, but Mr. Miles rejected the offer.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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