PITTSBURGH - A video apparently shot at Sunday’s PrideFest festivities in downtown Pittsburgh is sparking online outrage.
Several WPXI-TV Pittsburgh Facebook fans and viewers sent Channel 11 News a video that allegedly shows a Pittsburgh police officer punching a woman while trying to arrest her.
According to the criminal complaint, Ariel Lawther was fighting with a man named Eric Moore. The officer involved said when he went to break the fight up, he was pushed and kicked. The complaint stated that the officer, “pulled the woman out and grabbed her hair and punched her in the stomach a few times.”
Channel 11’s Pamela Osborne spoke with Jenny Kenny who recorded the alleged incident.
“From the very beginning, he grabbed her neck and he shouldn’t have done that,” said Kenny.
Channel 11’s Rick Earle reported that sources say the woman involved was arrested and is facing several charges, including resisting arrest.
Lawther posted $5,000 bail and has since been released from the Allegheny County Jail.
Lawther’s family said she plans to take the incident to a lawyer.
At a news conference late Monday morning, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he wants fairness and is launching an investigation into the video to determine if excessive force was used. Officials also announced that the officer involved has been placed on desk duty pending the results of the investigation.
“I just want to reassure the people that this is a new day. We won't look the other way when incidents like this happen, and we want to assure everybody -- and that includes both the public and the police -- that we want fairness. We will work diligently to make sure that justice is not delayed and that we will be able to proceed over the next month to find out exactly what happened, and to take the proper action,” Peduto said.
Acting Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar said the incident was referred to the office of municipal investigation for review.
“We will do a thorough investigation and review, and wherever that takes us it will guide our judgment in those matters. Generally speaking, these types of incidents, from this day forward while I'm in charge, will be fair and objectively reviewed in all cases,” Bucar said.
Peduto said they are asking for additional video so they can see the entire incident, not just one clip.
“We should be able to get additional video. The chief is already working through investigations to be able to do that,” Peduto said.
The Delta Foundation, the organization that helped put together PrideFest, issued a statement saying, “Following an extremely successful Pittsburgh Pride 2014 which included record crowds all weekend, the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh was concerned to learn about a video of an incident between a city of Pittsburgh police officer and an attendee. We are working closely with Mayor Bill Peduto’s office, public safety director Stephen Bucar, acting chief Regina McDonald, the office of municipal investigations, and the Citizens Police Review Board to review the incident and take appropriate action.”
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