Braddock probes video of officer punching suspect

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Braddock officials yesterday were reviewing a TV videotape of a borough police officer punching a burglary suspect following an early morning arrest yesterday.

Officer Kevin Lukart is seen in the eight-second video, shot by a WTAE-TV cameraman, twice punching Charles Lee Krug, 37, of Braddock, before shoving him into a police cruiser on Margaretta Street.

The video shows Officer Lukart walk a handcuffed Mr. Krug to his cruiser, where the two stand for a moment, apparently exchanging words.

At that point, Officer Lukart delivers a right to Mr. Krug's body, then grabs his head with his left hand and delivers another quick right to the face as he pushes him into the car.

He then slams the door and stalks away.

Police would not comment.

Mayor John Fetterman said he will meet with Police Chief Frank DeBartolo to discuss the incident and determine whether an outside agency should be brought in to investigate.

As a matter of routine policy, Mayor Fetterman said, the officer has been placed on administrative leave without pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

Mayor Fetterman said he watched the tape several times and found it "troubling."

But he also cautioned against a rush to condemn Officer Lukart, whom he said performed "heroically" during an August incident involving a bomb scare.

"I would ask everyone to withhold judgment until the investigation is complete," he said.

He said the borough has a "zero tolerance" policy against police brutality, but added that the video does not show the context of what occurred just prior to the punches.

He said he had been told that Mr. Krug was threatening the officer and making noises as if he were getting ready to spit on him.

"The chief and I will review the tape and make a decision," he said. "We're getting out in front of this one."

According to court papers, Mr. Krug used a crowbar to smash a glass door at 518 Mills Ave., not far from his own house at 416 Mills, shortly before 2 a.m.

He cut copper pipe from the laundry room in the basement, but as he moved upstairs the resident of the home emerged from a bedroom and startled him.

Mr. Krug fled, along with his girlfriend, identified in an affidavit as Lori Ann Moeller, whom police said was acting as a lookout. About 20 minutes after the break-in, officers spotted Mr. Krug and Ms. Moeller walking on Margaretta and took them into custody.

Mr. Krug, whose criminal history includes guilty pleas to burglary, robbery and assault, was arraigned yesterday in city court and held in jail pending a hearing next week at the office of District Judge Ross Cioppa in Rankin.

Ms. Moeller was detained but her status was unclear yesterday.


Torsten Ove can be reached at tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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