Police reviewing arrest of man at PNC Park
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Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper and the Citizen Police Review Board are investigating whether officers used too much force to subdue a Friendship man at PNC Park Saturday night.
Chief Harper said his office is examining whether it was necessary for officers to deploy a Taser on Scott James Ashley, 41, and then hit him with their batons.
Another person, Amanda Harle, 30, of Mt. Lebanon, also was arrested after police said she yelled at officers taking Mr. Ashley into custody and then resisted an officer's attempts to remove her from the park, screaming obscenities and telling them that she worked for KDKA. She was charged with aggravated assault, defiant trespass and disorderly conduct.
During Saturday night's game, personnel at PNC Park asked for assistance in the left field general admission section after getting reports of an unruly fan using foul language and refusing to leave the park.
A YouTube video of the arrest shows city Detective Francis Rende and Officer Jeffrey W. LaBella striking Mr. Ashley several times before taking him to the ground and handcuffing him.
The video starts with the detective leading Mr. Ashley down the stairs. At the bottom, Mr. Ashley elbows a PNC Park employee, sparking the confrontation with police.
After a Taser failed to subdue Mr. Ashley, the video shows both officers hitting him several times with their batons, first in the upper body, once near his head, and then several times in the legs.
In an affidavit, Detective Rende wrote that he told Mr. Ashley that he was under arrest but that Mr. Ashley refused to put his hands behind his back. He also wrote that officers feared for their safety.
Investigators for the review board expect to present a summary of their findings at the board's next meeting April 26.
Beth Pittinger, the executive director, said it's too early to reach any conclusions but said she has concerns over the amount of force she saw in the video, particularly at the end.
"When the officer kneels on the guy's neck when he's on the ground, that's a problem," she said, noting that deaths of subjects from "positional asphyxia" has been an issue in the past.
She also noted, however, that Mr. Ashley did not listen to commands, shook off the effects of the Taser and, at one point 33 seconds into the video, appears to reach for the officer's baton.
"That further escalates it," she said, "and then you have the whole crowd escalating it."
She had a recommendation for those encountering police: Comply.
Mr. Ashley, whose only prior conviction was a guilty plea to disorderly conduct in 2009, faces charges of harassment, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He was being held Monday in the Allegheny County Jail on a $5,000 straight bond.
Police said Ms. Harle was at the front of a crowd that had gathered around them, demanding to know why Mr. Ashley was being arrested and refusing to step back when she was asked, according to a criminal complaint.
She then refused to leave when police said they were ejecting her and started screaming profanities. At one point, the complaint said, she "pulled herself to the ground" and tried to kick the arresting officer. She smelled of alcohol, the complaint said.
Ms. Harle was arraigned Sunday morning and released on her own recognizance. She is scheduled to go before a judge next Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.
First Published April 12, 2011 12:00 am