The Tarentum man who suffered a cracked rib, a broken nose and other injuries during a confrontation with police at Station Square earlier this year was held for trial today on charges related to the incident.
Edward Lojak Jr., 28, faces charges of aggravated harassment by prisoner, obstructing law enforcement, drug possession and other crimes in connection with the encounter at Whim Nightclub on March 16, the day before St. Patrick's Day.
His arrest has drawn scrutiny, prompting an investigation by the city Office of Municipal Investigations and prompting the FBI to monitor the case.
Officer Eric Engelhardt, who was working an off-duty detail at the club, testified that he asked another man, Shane Fischer, 27, of Saxonburg, to leave Whim shortly after 1 p.m. and did so so many times that he lost track. He said Mr. Fischer left the club and came back, mentioning something about a lost wallet.
It was at that time, the officer testified, that he first saw Mr. Lojak. He said he tried to handcuff Mr. Fischer but, "As soon as I got a handcuff on his right hand, he spun around -- not like he was going to hurt me, like he was trying to walk away again."
He said Mr. Fischer resisted his attempts to arrest him and at one point bent his handcuffs.
The most controversial part of the encounter took place behind Officer Engelhardt.
"I couldn't see what happened," he said, offering testimony about the next moments based off of Whim surveillance video footage provided to him by the Office of Municipal Investigations.
He said that Mr. Lojak approached him from behind, and the club manager pushed him. After Mr. Lojak regained his balance, several other officers came by to assist. Detective David Honick "pushed Mr. Lojak out of the way and he went on the ground, injuring his face," Officer Engelhardt testified.
He said Mr. Lojak fell near his feet and those of Mr. Fischer. "Apparently he did get kicked several times, inadvertently by myself and Mr. Fischer," Officer Engelhardt testified.
Officer Engelhardt testified that Mr. Lojak landed with his arm underneath him and did not move it so police could handcuff him.
"Detective Honick struck him two times to gain compliance. On the third time, he was able to get his arm back behind his back," Officer Engelhardt said.
He said another officer, Timothy Novosel, got blood on his shirt during the encounter.
Police called for medics and Officer Engelhardt said he later learned that drugs -- including some found in a bottle with another person's name on it -- were found on Mr. Lojak at the hospital. Mr. Lojak's attorney, Phillip DiLucente, questioned why officers had not reached out to the prescription owner.
Officer Engelhardt testified that he later learned that Mr. Lojak and Mr. Fischer had taken a bus to Station Square and had been drinking since 7 a.m., although no one discussed their specific blood-alcohol content at the hearing.
Mr. Lojak declined to comment while he left the Pittsburgh Municipal Courts Building following his preliminary hearing this afternoon. Mr. DiLucente said he was disappointed in the outcome of Wednesday's preliminary hearing and questioned why Mr. Lojak was arrested after video of the encounter surfaced as opposed to on the day of the encounter.
He said Mr. Lojak cannot breathe properly out of his left nostril and requires "major surgery."
"This is the victim," he said, referring to Mr. Lojak. "He is not the defendant."
Liz Navratil: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.