Police union's attorney defends fan arrest during Pirates game

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The attorney for the city's police union on Thursday said a pair of officers acted appropriately when they stunned a Pittsburgh Pirates fan with Tasers and hit him with nightsticks during an arrest at PNC Park, which caused a minor sensation after it was captured on YouTube.

Fraternal Order of Police attorney Bryan Campbell said Detective Francis Rende and Officer Jeffrey W. LaBella followed the use of force continuum when subduing Scott Ashley, 41, of Friendship, who was charged with harassment, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after the Saturday night scuffle. A Thursday preliminary hearing was postponed until next month.

The force continuum specifies what an officer should do when confronted with a certain level of noncompliance. Mr. Campbell said the officers struck Mr. Ashley with their batons only after a Taser's jolt had no effect. The officers are then shown in the video taking him to the ground and handcuffing him.

"The strikes here were to the shoulders and to the back of the legs, and that is how they are instructed to do it," Mr. Campbell said. He said he was told that a use-of-force instructor at the Pittsburgh police training academy had also seen the video and determined officers followed proper procedure.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richard declined to comment on Mr. Campbell's remarks and said Chief Nate Harper has made no determination in his review of the case.

Mr. Ashley's lawyer, Fred Rabner, said questions remain about the officers' actions as well as his client's. He said Mr. Ashley was excited to attend the Pirates game against the Colorado Rockies because he rarely gets to go and was "just trying to watch the game" before park personnel enlisted the help of police to remove him.

Police said he was unruly, used foul language, refused to leave and elbowed a security guard.

"Obviously, the event my client was charged in was not what people have seen in the videos but what happened before," Mr. Rabner said. The video had attracted nearly 500,000 views by Thursday night, and Mr. Rabner said his client is trying to remain calm amid the unwanted attention.

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


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