PITTSBURGH - A Homewood man's memory of what happened during his arrest four years ago probably isn't as clear as the recollection of the three officers because he was traumatized and taken from the scene, but that doesn't change the facts of his case against the three officers, the man's lawyer told a federal jury Tuesday during opening statements in his civil trial.
Jordan Miles, 22, says officers Michael Saldutte and David Sisak and then-Officer Richard Ewing lacked probable cause and beat him when they arrested him on Jan. 12, 2010, on Tioga Street in Homewood. The officers contend Miles was acting suspiciously and attempted to flee when they questioned him.
“What this case is about, we believe, is abuse of power,” said Robert Giroux, one of Miles' lawyers.
During the encounter, Miles was scared, didn't understand why three men were jumping him and spent most of his time with his back to the police officers trying to get away, Giroux said.
“I'm not here to tell you these officers are bad people,” he said. “I'm not here to tell you they're bad officers.”
In the course of working the streets, however, the officers repeatedly “crossed the line” of legal behavior until “someday, they can't even see the line.”
James Wymard, the lawyer for Sisak, said the officers were patrolling a high-crime area and specifically checking out nearby abandoned houses that were reportedly being used by drug dealers when they spotted someone loitering beside a house.
When they turned their car around and came back, they spotted Miles and stopped to question him. If Miles had just answered their questions, “we wouldn't be here today,” he said.
While Miles, who is black, contends that he didn't known the three white, plain-clothed men coming out of the unmarked car were police, they identified themselves and displayed their badges, Wymard said.
“Three white guys in Homewood trying to put handcuffs on someone, who else could it be but police officers,” he told the jury.
Wymard told the jury that Miles ran and hit his head on ice when he fell, then hit his face on the rocks in the bushes as he was tackled by one of the officers.
Miles claimed he was terrified, and that’s why he ran.
After opening statements by the lawyers for the other officers, the trial continued with Miles' attorney calling witnesses.
“There’s a doctor who is going to testify there were 13 separate strikes to his face. Thirteen separate ones,” attorney Joel Sansone said.
The trial is expected to take at least two weeks.
Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.