Man files lawsuit against off-duty cop, city
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A man who was shot by an off-duty Pittsburgh police officer last year is suing the city and the now-reinstated officer for false imprisonment and excessive force.
Officer Paul G. Abel Jr. was found not guilty of criminal charges -- including aggravated assault -- by Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning in June. He was reinstated to his position through arbitration last week.
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Kaleb Miller was walking on Sidney Street on the South Side about 2:10 a.m. on June 28, 2008, when he saw Officer Abel, an off-duty Zone 3 police officer. He had a gun in his hand and was "yelling unintelligibly and was visibly intoxicated."
The officer, who testified at his trial that he had been assaulted at a stop light when he left a bar that morning, believed Mr. Miller was the person who struck him.
According to the lawsuit, Officer Abel got into a car, did a U-turn onto 20th Street and stopped 10 feet in front of Mr. Miller. Officer Abel then grabbed Mr. Miller by the shirt and ordered him to the ground, it continued.
"Defendant Abel then pushed the barrel of his pistol into the left eye and face cheek of plaintiff, at which point plaintiff began to go to the ground as ordered by defendant Abel," the lawsuit said.
Mr. Abel then began to hit Mr. Miller in the back of the head with the gun, the suit continued. Trying to protect himself, Mr. Miller put his right hand over the back of his head and was shot in the hand.
"After plaintiff suffered the right hand gunshot wound, he fell to the ground on his right side, at which point plaintiff viewed defendant Abel seated on the sidewalk, twirling his pistol," the complaint said.
Two uniformed officers arrived and said that Mr. Miller was under arrest. Later, however, after they realized he had not assaulted Officer Abel, he was released and taken to the hospital for treatment.
Mr. Miller claims that the city failed to investigate prior acts of false imprisonment or excessive force by Officer Abel.
He had three previous complaints with the city's Citizen Police Review Board before being acquitted of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and DUI in a non-jury trial.
Judge Manning said what he did was "inappropriate, imprudent and ill-advised," but not criminal.
The city solicitor had not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit yesterday and could not comment.
First Published September 3, 2009 12:00 am