No talk of gun at Jordan Miles scene, officer says
Excessive-force jury gets more testimony
March 12, 2014 10:57 PM
From left, Michael Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing arrive in front of the Federal Courthouse in Pittsburgh early Wednesday morning before they are scheduled to testify in the Jordan Miles civil trial.
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In a civil trial that hinges on whether police thought Jordan Miles had a gun, attorneys for the Homewood man on Wednesday called another officer to testify against the three accused of falsely arresting and beating him.
Officer David Horak, who left the Pittsburgh police in 2011 and now works for Ross, didn't seem happy about it, but testified that he heard no mention of a gun when he arrived at the scene of a just-ended struggle between three officers and Mr. Miles.
On the night of the incident, asked plaintiff's attorney Robert Giroux, "Did any of the officers tell you that they thought [Mr. Miles] had a gun, or had had a gun?"
"No," Officer Horak said.
That exchange came hours after a police procedure expert, also called by Mr. Miles' team, testified that only an indication of a gun would justify the officers' subsequent strikes to the young man's head.
Mr. Miles, now 22, has said he was walking around the block in Homewood from his mother's house to his grandmother's when three plainclothes officers jumped from an unmarked car and beat him.
Pittsburgh police officers Michael Saldutte and David Sisak and former Pittsburgh officer Richard Ewing have countered that they saw Mr. Miles lurking between houses, identified themselves as city law enforcement and chased him only after he bolted under questioning and appeared to have a gun.
Officer Horak was not called to testify at a 2012 trial on the incident, which ended with a hung jury.
He said he got the call to report to the scene at 11:08 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2010, just after the altercation ended. He said the officers were huddled around Mr. Miles, but were not checking his pulse or breathing. He said Officer Saldutte was red-faced, as if from exertion.
"They said, 'We jumped out on him, and then he ran,' correct?" asked Mr. Giroux.
"Yes," said Officer Horak.
That supports Mr. Miles' contention that the officers came at him suddenly without identifying themselves, according to Joel Sansone, the plaintiff's other attorney.
Jump-outs were a troubling police tactic, said Mr. Sansone, after the day's testimony. "They jumped out [of cars], said, 'Give me your drugs, guns and money.' "
Mr. Sansone said he plans to bring more evidence about the practice, potentially including testimony scheduled for today by Pittsburgh police Commander RaShall Brackney. He also may call Officer Sisak and Officer Saldutte today, he said.
Officer Horak said that upon another officer's request, he turned Mr. Miles around so that neighbor Monica Wooding, from a second floor window, could look at his face in the light from a flashlight. Ms. Wooding said she didn't know him, according to the officer.
That bolsters the defense's contention that the officers saw Mr. Miles sneaking around Ms. Wooding's house, and had reason to think he could be a burglar.
Officer Horak said that Mr. Miles' injuries warranted transportation to West Penn Hospital. He also said his facial swelling was not the worst that he's seen, and that he only lost a "very small" braid of hair from his scalp.
The Ross officer confirmed that it was "unsettling sitting up here" testifying. He added that he had not socialized with the three defendants for years, but said he lunched with them just before taking the stand.
Mr. Miles' former girlfriend, Jamiah Anderson, testified that at the time of the incident she was on the phone with him.
"I heard all of the sudden yelling," she said. "I heard [Mr. Miles] say, 'No, stop, chill.' "
Then she heard "scratchy sounds," and nothing else. She did not, though, try to call him or his family. "I went to sleep."
After the incident she became his girlfriend, but they broke up a year and a half later, she said.
Defense attorneys pointed to Ms. Anderson's past statements in which she said that Mr. Miles told her that the officers thought he had a gun. She said she no longer remembered that.
The trial is expected to last most of the rest of the month.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord. First Published March 12, 2014 11:08 AM