Jordan Miles 'had no idea those were police officers'
Plaintiff testifies in suit over arrest, injuries
March 20, 2014 11:08 PM
Jordan Miles leaves the Federal Courthouse in Pittsburgh on March 10.
By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As Jordan Miles felt people wrenching his arms out from under him and yanking them behind his back, following a series of blows, and then felt his hands fastened together, he did not realize that he was being arrested by police, he told a jury Thursday.
"You knew they were trying to put handcuffs on you, Jordan," said attorney James Wymard, representing one of the three police officers accused by Mr. Miles of false arrest and excessive force, on cross-examination.
"They were trying to get my hands behind my back," but he didn't realize the goal was to cuff him, Mr. Miles maintained.
Jordan Miles testifies in court
Jordan Miles spent all day testifying in court today. Mr. Miles is seeking damages from an altercation with police. (Video by Doug Oster:3/20/2014)
Mr. Wymard seemed amazed that if "three Caucasians try to put handcuffs on you" in Homewood, there could be any conclusion but that they were police officers. "Didn't you realize, didn't it dawn on you, that it had to be police officers that were trying to do this?"
"The fact that they beat me after they handcuffed me, I had no idea those were police officers," Mr. Miles, 22, said.
That claim was one of the most contentious made during a day of testimony by the Homewood man at the civil trial in which he has accused three officers of beating him on Jan. 12, 2010, a few doors from his mother's house.
Officers Michael Saldutte, David Sisak and Richard Ewing sat impassive at the defense table as Mr. Miles, under the guidance of plaintiff's attorney Joel Sansone, testified all morning and into the afternoon about his life before the incident, the three-minute encounter, and his existence afterward. It was the seventh day of testimony in the second trial stemming from the incident.
The officers have said that they saw Mr. Miles between houses, identified themselves clearly and began questioning him. When he ran, they gave chase, they've said. When he fought, they tackled, punched and kneed him until he was handcuffed.
"The driver of the car opened up his door and said, very loudly, 'Where's your gun, money and drugs?' " Mr. Miles told the jury. He said he dropped his phone, on which he had been talking with a friend, "because I was scared."
When he tried to run back toward his mother's house, he slipped on ice and fell, he said. "I believe it was the driver who jumped on my back," he said.
The driver was Officer Ewing, who has since left Pittsburgh for the McCandless police force. In the officers' accounts, Mr. Saldutte came out of the passenger's side door and made initial contact, until Mr. Miles felled him with an elbow to the head.
Mr. Wymard zoomed in on that discrepancy, saying that in earlier sworn statements, Mr. Miles had expressed certainty that the driver jumped on him first. Now, said Mr. Wymard, "You say you thought it was the driver."
Mr. Wymard peppered Mr. Miles with questions about his initial accounts, in which he indicated that the entire incident happened in one yard, when the officers swear it happened next door.
"In my mind, that's where I was, but I could've been somewhere else," said Mr. Miles.
"Now you want to qualify it by saying you could've been somewhere else," said Mr. Wymard.
"There's so much that happened in that altercation," Mr. Miles said.
The officers have claimed that Mr. Miles rose from the ice, elbowed Officer Saldutte, took a tackle through bushes and kicked Officer Sisak, then rose with Officer Ewing on his back.
Mr. Miles denied it all. "I never got off the ground," he said. Rather, he endured a rain of blows while trying to curl into a ball, recalling self-defense advice a police officer gave him in third grade, he testified.
"I felt one of my hands being yanked back, and I felt something go on it," said Mr. Miles. "I didn't put two and two together and think that they were handcuffs."
Mr. Miles said that after he was handcuffed, he repeatedly tried to sit up and pray, but someone kept shoving his head into the snow.
"I was hit with a very, very hard object," Mr. Miles said. What was it? "I don't know. I didn't see it. I felt it. It was much harder than any other blow.
"I gave up."
Mr. Wymard confronted Mr. Miles with a doctor's report in which the physician wrote that the young man described being "beaten with a tree branch." Mr. Miles said that was the doctor's conclusion, not his own account.
The officers have said that they shined a flashlight on Mr. Miles' face and asked a neighbor whether she knew him, and she said she did not. Mr. Miles said he witnessed no such conversation.
He said that when uniformed officers arrived and put him in the back of a police wagon, he thought, "Why weren't those three men being arrested?"
The jury's decision on whether the officers are liable for Mr. Miles' damages may hinge on whether they believe that they identified themselves as police, and whether they had reason to think the young man had a gun.
If the jury finds liability, they would then determine damages. Mr. Miles' team contrasted his prospects before and after the incident.
Mr. Miles said that after years focused on impressing girls, he had an epiphany in 11th grade and became more serious, dedicating himself to study and aiming for college. But after the incident, his grades plunged, two stabs at college didn't work out and he abandoned his beloved viola.
Mr. Sansone asked: What does he want?
"At the conclusion of this litigation, no matter what the outcome is, I'll be able to put it behind myself and I'll be able to pick up the things I once loved again," he said.