Civil suit trial begins against 2 Pittsburgh policemen

A civil trial in which two City of Pittsburgh police officers are accused of using excessive force during an incident December 1, 2010, in the North Side began Monday in federal court.

The plaintiff, Anthony Kenney, 40, of Perry North testified that Officer Matthew Turko pistol-whipped him over the head before bringing him to the ground and beating him repeatedly over the head with his fists while Officer Robert Smith failed to intervene.

The beating stopped only after the officers noticed a witness in a nearby house, he claimed. They then allegedly removed his handcuffs and told him he looked like a “nice kid” before telling him that he would not be charged if he kept quiet about the beating.

Mr. Kenney is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the officers and the city in excess of $50,000.

Defense attorney Bryan Campbell stated that no beating occurred. He asserted in his opening that the laceration to Mr. Kenney’s face, as shown in pictures the plaintiff’s girlfriend took after the incident, was the result of Officer Turko using an “arm bar” maneuver to remove Mr. Kenney from his vehicle after he failed to comply with orders to do so. Mr. Campbell said Officer Turko’s gun was never removed from his holster.

The police say the incident occurred after Mr. Kenney failed to stop at a stop sign and turned without using a turn signal. When Officer Turko, in an unmarked police car, tried to stop Mr. Kenney, Mr. Kenney’s brother Ulysses Kenney fled from the car and down a side street. Two officers exited the police car and gave chase.

Mr. Kenney claimed he continued to drive less than a block to his aunt’s house to get help for his brother, not knowing that Officer Turko and Officer Smith were still in the police car. After they pursued him, he stopped his car again, at which point he claimed the excessive force took place.

During her opening statements, attorney Margaret Shuetz Coleman characterized the alleged beating as a violation of Mr. Kenney’s civil rights, and said that the officers “knew that what they were doing was wrong, abused their power and made up a story to cover it up.”

The key witness for the plaintiff was Sahara Banks, next-door neighbor of Mr. Kenney’s aunt, who testified that she heard Mr. Kenney screaming in pain and saw Officer Turko beating him while she stood looking out her window.

Mr. Campbell insisted that Mr. Kenney’s medical report after the incident showed no serious injuries and suggested a pre-existing condition as the cause of swelling to his jaw. He also said that some of Ms. Banks’ testimony was inconsistent with statements she made during the deposition and in a news interview.

Mr. Kenney, who was driving without a license at the time he was pulled over, was convicted in 2011 of fleeing or attempting to elude an officer. His brother was convicted of cocaine possession.

Officer Turko and Officer Smith will continue their testimony tomorrow.

Albert Anderson: or 412-263-1454. First Published July 14, 2014 8:15 PM


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