Jordan Miles, the 20-year-old Homewood man who accused three Pittsburgh police officers of beating and falsely arresting him when he was a high school student two years ago, was honored Friday with the NAACP Spirit Award at the organization's annual Pennsylvania State Convention Freedom Fund banquet in North Strabane.
Mr. Miles was presented with the award by Tim Stevens, former head of the Pittsburgh branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and current chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project.
Mr. Stevens said he had "grown to have great love and respect" for Mr. Miles since his ordeal began two days after his 18th birthday, on Jan. 12, 2010.
Mr. Stevens said Mr. Miles was "brutally beaten" by plainclothes officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak, to the point that his mother, Terez Miles, didn't recognize him.
A photo of Mr. Miles' swollen and battered face dominated the headlines for months as the case drew national attention.
"If it could happen to him, they knew it could happen to them," Mr. Stevens said of other young people, hundreds of whom have since expressed their support for the mild-mannered young man, who was an honor student and viola player at the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts with no criminal record when he was arrested.
"He was in the right place at the wrong time," said Mr. Stevens about Mr. Miles, who said he was stopped by the officers on Tioga Street, as he walked from his mother's house to his grandmother's house. He said they did not identify themselves and beat and arrested him. Charges of defiant trespass and resisting arrest were later dropped.
The officers said they noticed Mr. Miles acting suspiciously between two houses and said he ran when they tried to question him. The officers said they thought Mr. Miles had a gun and said they didn't use excessive force when arresting him.
In August, six of eight jurors in a federal civil trial voted in favor of the officers on false arrest and excessive force counts, resulting in a mistrial. All of the jurors voted in favor of the officers on a malicious prosecution count, resulting in a partial defense verdict. Lawyers for Mr. Miles recently have sought a new civil trial.
Since the incident, Mr. Stevens said the city was pressured into instituting several policy changes, including the use of video recorders in police vehicles and increased police accountability.
"If you would have told me when I was 10 years old that I would ever be a part of something like this, there's no way," said Mr. Miles, who said he was honored to accept the award.
"You don't know how much it means to me to receive an award like this. The pain I went through that night ... the embarrassment I felt ... the humiliation," said an emotional Mr. Miles, who was surrounded by his mother, grandmother and sister as he accepted the award. "I felt I was going to die."
Janice Crompton: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-851-1867. First Published November 15, 2012 10:15 AM