Investigation finds officer at fault in Oakland incident

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A Pittsburgh investigation has sustained a truck driver's claim that an off-duty city police officer engaged in unbecoming and unethical conduct during a collision in Oakland last year.

Officer Garrett Brown told police that a U-Haul van struck his personal vehicle, a black Dodge pickup, while he was stopped at a red light and drove off to Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville. But U-Haul driver Blaine Johnston and his passenger, who were delivering doughnuts, said it was Officer Brown who struck their van, and they feared for their safety because he looked ready to start a fight.

The men filed complaints with the city's Office of Municipal Investigations after the Nov. 19 incident near Baum Boulevard and Melwood Avenue.

"After a thorough investigation into the events surrounding your complaint, it has been determined by this office that the incident did take place as you described," OMI Manager Kathy Kraus told them in a June letter.

Officer Brown's statements to police led them to charge Mr. Johnston, 58, with leaving the scene of an accident, a count that a district judge dismissed after Officer Brown failed to show up for a preliminary hearing.

Mr. Johnston and his passenger, Matthew Mazzie, 47, said Officer Brown caused the crash, which was part of a series of confrontations that included the officer cracking the mirror on their vehicle by punching it.

Ms. Kraus wrote the OMI sustained allegations of conduct unbecoming, truthfulness, police ethics violations and incompetency stemming from the confrontation. She declined to comment Wednesday.

Officer Brown at the time was working as a motorcycle officer out of the city's West End station. He was transferred to the North Side station in June and has since been assigned to the warrant office. Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson could not be reached for comment, but has declined in the past to discuss the bureau's "reasons for a movement of personnel."

Officer Brown declined to comment. An investigation into the same incident by the Citizen Police Review Board remains open.


Sadie Gurman: sgurman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878.


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