Pittsburgh police chief orders firing of officer involved in Heinz Field arrest

PITTSBURGH — A Pittsburgh police sergeant who was previously cleared of using excessive force during an arrest at Heinz field has been suspended pending termination, sources confirm to Target 11's Rick Earle.

Sgt. Stephen Matakovich was caught on surveillance video punching a teenager during the WPIAL football championship games in November.


Charges related to the incident were dropped on Feb 1. However, in the days following, the FBI announced a review of the case and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala directed that charges be refiled.

On Wednesday, Earle learned that the Pittsburgh police chief ordered that Matakovich be suspended for five days and then fired, an order that has been appealed to Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich by Matakovich.

The chief's ruling came after an administrative hearing, during which Matakovich attempted to defend his actions before the chief and members of the command staff.

Sources previously told Target 11 that Matakovich was off duty but working a security detail at Heinz Field on Nov. 28 when he encountered an intoxicated fan, Gabriel Despres, and arrested him.

During an earlier hearing for Matakovich, a use of force expert testified that Despres was not in an aggressive stance during the incident. Matakovich's attorney, Blaine Jones, disputed the claim.

Police union attorney Bryan Campbell, who represents Matakovich, said that in the recent administrative hearing, Matakovich offered an explanation for why he pushed and repeatedly punched Despres.

"He had the video and went through it step by step and why he did it," Campell said. "He's saying the kid got ahold of his jacket and is pulling him down. You can see his jacket move. I understand why he did what he did."

Sources told Target 11 that Matakovich asked Despres to leave nine times before action was taken.

Despres, who was charged with trespassing and underage drinking, never filed a complaint.

Matakovich remains on paid leave until Hissrich makes his decision, which he is expected to do by next week. If the termination is upheld, Matakovich can then appeal to an arbitration panel made up of three people -- one selected by Matakovich, one picked by the city and a neutral observer.

"At this time Sgt. Matakovich's discipline is an ongoing internal proceeding, which by contract is not permitted to be discussed publicly," the Pittsburgh Police Fraternal Order of Police said on Twitter.


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