Police cover-up charged in suit against city

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Two South Hills men sued the City of Pittsburgh Friday, claiming that a man, who was then a police officer, attacked them in a road rage incident and other officers covered it up.

Blaine Johnston and Matthew Mazzie were driving a baked goods delivery van to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC two years ago at around 3:30 a.m., according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court. Officer Garrett Brown was off duty and became upset when they turned in front of him, it said, and chased them, hurling coins and yelling profanities.

At a traffic light, it said, Mr. Brown, 41, punched their driver's side mirror, driver's side window and truck door, opened the driver's side door and grabbed Mr. Johnston. Mr. Johnston drove off, with Mr. Brown in pursuit.

Mr. Brown then drove the right side of his car into the left side of their van, it said. Mr. Mazzie called 911 and met responding officers at Children's Hospital. But they huddled with Mr. Brown, reported that Mr. Johnston had rear-ended their fellow officer and charged him with misdemeanors, it said.

Those charges were eventually dropped. Mr. Brown now faces charges of theft by deception, reckless endangerment and filing false reports and a false insurance claim in connection with the incident. His trial is set for March. He has been fired by the city.

The lawsuit accuses the city, Mr. Brown and seven city officers of violating the plaintiffs' rights, notably including due process rights.

The officers combined "to accept Brown's story, in spite of the vehicle damage, which was absolutely to the contrary," said attorney Thomas J. McClain, who co-authored the complaint. "They then refused to investigate a potential crime against my clients."

As a result, Mr. Johnston had to hire counsel, attend court, make bail and go through a criminal process, he said.

City solicitor Daniel Regan said he's "familiar with the allegations and we haven't had an opportunity to review the complaint."

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord.


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