Jim Rogers heard saying “I can’t breathe” on Pittsburgh police officers’ body cams

PITTSBURGH — A Pittsburgh man who died in police custody was heard saying “I can’t breathe” before losing consciousness.

That is among the new, exclusive details Channel 11 Investigator Rick Earle discovered in the case as the City of Pittsburgh decides the fate of multiple officers involved.

Channel 11′s Earle spoke with sources who reviewed footage from the police officers’ body cameras and were “troubled by what they saw.”

During the moments after an officer repeatedly used his taser on Rogers in Bloomfield in October, Rogers repeatedly asked for help.

Channel 11′s Rick Earle also learned the officer who deployed the taser followed the car Rogers was in to the hospital and began performing CPR outside of the hospital before doctors and nurses took over.

Rogers died the next day.

His death is being investigated by the City, Allegheny County Police and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.

On Tuesday the city of Pittsburgh announced policy and procedural changes, based on what happened in Bloomfield in October. Here’s what the city’s release said:

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, Jim Rogers was placed in Pittsburgh Bureau of Police (PBP) custody after officers responded to a call in Bloomfield. The officer on scene deployed his Taser during the response. Following his arrest, Mr. Rogers was transported to Mercy Hospital by police, where he passed away the following day.

Pursuant to policy, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police empaneled an internal Critical Incident Review Board (CIRB) to evaluate officers’ actions and gauge policy compliance. Additionally, the Allegheny County Police Department is independently investigating the incident with the full cooperation of the PBP. Over the course of two months, the CIRB has reviewed evidence including all available video, officer statements and Pittsburgh Bureau of Police general orders and training. The Board found that a series of procedural failures contributed to this tragic outcome.

Eight Pittsburgh Bureau of Police officers, including two supervisors, will face varying levels of discipline in accordance with the Fraternal Order of Police collective bargaining agreement. We are not permitted to discuss details of the disciplinary process. In recent years, the City of Pittsburgh implemented several measures to ensure accountability, including mandatory de-escalation and implicit bias training for officers and participation in The National Initiative for Building Community Trust & Justice, which examines policy and aims to increase trust within our community. However, it is clear more needs to be done.

Therefore, the CIRB recommended the following policy and procedural changes:

  • Any use of force incident will require the presence of a supervisor on scene to complete a medical assessment and request appropriate personnel
  • Any incident involving the positive deployment of a Taser will require emergency medical services personnel to assess the patient
  • Pittsburgh Bureau of Police personnel will be retrained in accordance with established PBP Training Academy Duty to Intervene policy
  • PBP will streamline its organizational review of Use of Force by both appropriate command staff and the Training Academy to expeditiously ensure policy compliance

“It is imperative that every critical incident is reviewed promptly,” said Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich. “By identifying the problem, it allows us to expeditiously make corrections that are put into policy in a timely manner.”

Immediately following this incident, all sworn PBP officers were required to complete a Taser refresher course followed by an exam. This course is in addition to the yearly mandated Taser recertification requirement for all officers.

Further, the PBP will require its officers to become fully certified Emergency Medical Responders.

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police would like to express its most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Jim Rogers. We thank them for their patience in affording the CIRB the time and latitude to investigate the events that led up to his tragic death.

“Jim Rogers will serve as a sober reminder of the tremendous responsibility all officers bear when they wear the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police badge. Every resident and visitor to the City of Pittsburgh is owed the highest standard of care when they are in the custody of Pittsburgh Police. In the case of Jim Rogers, we failed our fellow citizen. The disciplinary measures and procedural changes we are announcing today are intended to ensure a tragedy such as this never occurs again in the City of Pittsburgh,” said Police Chief, Scott Schubert.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto sent the following statement:

“It is an absolute tragedy that Jim Rogers lost his life while in Pittsburgh Police custody - a failure of a system that should have protected his life. This critical incident included multiple failures. Today’s announcement around pending disciplinary action and policy changes is a starting point. We must continue to make reforms in policing and within society to do what we can to make sure this never happens again and that Mr. Rogers’ family receives the justice they deserve.”

District Attorney Stephen Zappala sent a statement:

“The substance of whatever document is being referenced, which apparently was communicated to the media by Mr. Peduto’s police administration, is mostly already known to investigators. That being said, some of the substance is inconsistent with prior statements, thereby requiring review for the possibility of additional criminal conduct.”