Pittsburgh police have arrested a juvenile believed to have cold-cocked a Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher as they passed each other last week in a Downtown alley in an unprovoked and brazen assault that was captured on surveillance video.
"The mayor is appalled at this vicious and senseless attack," Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said Tuesday. "It appears to be a random act but this juvenile has a track record, already has, for example, a probation officer."
Surveillance video captures assault on CAPA teacher
Surveillance video provided by the Pittsburgh Police show an apparently unprovoked assault on a CAPA teacher while walking through a Downtown alley. (10/9/2012)
Police spokeswoman Diane Richard said the 15-year-old suspect's parents delivered him to the Zone 2 police station for questioning Tuesday afternoon. The boy, a student at Pittsburgh Student Achievement Center in Homewood, has been charged with simple assault and probation violation and taken to the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center.
Ms. Doven and Pittsburgh police Zone 2 Cmdr. Eric Holmes said the police presence in the Cultural District has been beefed up in response to the incident, particularly around dismissal time for the three schools in the area -- Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Urban Pathways Charter School and City Charter High School.
The attack happened Thursday around 3:30 p.m. on Tito Way, a well-traveled alley alongside the Benedum Center that runs between Liberty and Penn avenues. The teen who threw the punch was one of a group of six youths who were walking toward Penn just as the victim, James Addlespurger, was heading toward Liberty.
Just as disturbing as the assault -- in which the assailant went out of his way to approach Mr. Addlespurger before decking him with a single sucker punch to the face -- is the way that the group nonchalantly strolled away, seemingly without a care, amid smiles and casual looks back.
"We don't know the mind state that that young man was in but there's something very terrifying about it," said Pittsburgh Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, whose district includes Downtown. "In the video it appears he was laughing afterwards, which is very disturbing."
"My reaction was disappointment and disgust that it happened," Cmdr. Holmes said.
Mr. Addlespurger, 50, of Bon Air, an English teacher at CAPA, commented only briefly.
"I think the video pretty much speaks for itself," he said Tuesday morning.
Mr. Addlespurger is also a locally prominent blues guitar player who uses a stage name to headline the Jimmy Adler Band.
He wrote Saturday on Facebook that he plans to play a concert Oct. 20 and said: "I am posting to let you know that I appreciate all of the messages. Many of you have contacted me with your concerns. All is getting better as I am healing at home."
The assault happened not only in the middle of the day before several witnesses but in front of a video camera.
In the video, the six young men can be seen entering the alley from Liberty. Mr. Addlespurger, is walking the other way, a briefcase in one hand and a newspaper in the other.
A band mate, pianist John Burgh, said he thinks his friend was likely walking to the Wood Street light rail transit station for his commute home.
About 10 seconds after entering the alley, the group passed by Mr. Addlespurger. No one was in anyone's way. It is not clear if any words were exchanged, but it does not appear so.
Suddenly, one of the youths takes a step toward Mr. Addlespurger, winds up and hits him in the face. He watches as a senseless Mr. Addlespurger keels right over, his head striking the curb.
"He definitely went out of his way to hit him," Pittsburgh police Zone 2 Detective Al Flemm said. "Just random. Terrible."
The incident happened almost right in front of another group of three people sitting in the alley near Liberty outside a coffee shop.
Two of them and a woman went to help Mr. Addlespurger, who was clearly wobbly as he tried to get up. Port Authority police said he was bloody and his jaw was swollen and bruised.
Detective Flemm said it was likely that the youths who did not take part in the attack would not be charged with anything.
Last week before the assault occurred, Cmdr. Holmes attended a meeting about Downtown security with the Cultural Trust, Port Authority police and other groups. One of the topics was the groups of rowdy teenagers congregating along Tito and Exchange ways.
The commander said he has increased bicycle and K-9 patrols in the Cultural District. On Tuesday afternoon there was no shortage of pedestrians cutting through the alley, both alone and in groups.
Some were aware of the assault and said it made them think twice.
Roy Fischer, 51, of Crafton Heights, said he was "a little nervous. I work in the this building right here. I cut through this alley all the time. You have to be aware of your surroundings."
Cmdr. Holmes and Councilman Lavelle hope that one incident will not tarnish the Golden Triangle's reputation.
"I think we need to be careful not to assume because there was one isolated act of violence that that is how all of Downtown is," Mr. Lavelle said. "Downtown Pittsburgh is one of the safest communities in the city and that should be duly noted."
Jonathan D. Silver: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1962.