Man tased by Pittsburgh police had cocaine in system, no seizure medication

PITTSBURGH — 11 Investigates has uncovered new information about the man who died after being tased by a Pittsburgh police officer two years ago.

Sources told 11 Investigates that Jim Rogers had cocaine in his system at the time of the tasing.

Sources also said Rogers did not have any alcohol in his system and may have been in alcohol withdrawal.

He was also on seizure medication but did not have any in his system.

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This new information comes to light after yet another fired officer has been returned to the force.

So far, three of the four fired officers have been reinstated by the city after meeting with the police officers’ union.

In each case, the city has agreed to reduce the firings and return the officers to the force with back pay.

The arbitration hearing for Officer Keith Edmonds hasn’t happened yet.

11 Investigates began asking questions about that $8 million settlement the city agreed to pay Rogers’ family to settle a wrongful death lawsuit when the city began reinstating the officers.

11 Investigates wanted to know why the city would agree to pay $8 million when no one is being held accountable.

Chief Investigator Rick Earle has raised enough questions that city council president Theresa Kail-Smith last week asked the controller to put the first payment to the family on hold.

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While both the city and the police union agree there were failures that day, they disagree on what caused Rogers’ death.

A couple of months ago, Earle spoke with Roger’s uncle about the drug use.

“He had a drug problem. And we were trying to help him, get him off drugs,” said Billy Joe Jordan.

Edmonds was investigating a report of a stolen bicycle in Bloomfield two years ago when he encountered Rogers.

He said Rogers would not comply with his commands.

He began tasing Rogers.

It was caught on cell phone video by a bystander.

The video shows Rogers repeatedly rolling over attempting to elude the taser.

It concludes with Rogers on the ground, but he’s conscious and alert as police search him and eventually pull him to his feet.

He’s then put in a police car, but medics never check him out at the scene.

About 30 minutes later, police finally drive him to the hospital, as he’s repeatedly saying he can’t breathe.

When police arrive at Mercy Hospital, Rogers is unconscious in the back of the police cruiser.

Officers initially think he’s sleeping.

The officer who tased pulls up behind the transport car and he begins CPR.

Rogers died at the hospital the next day.

The medical examiner ruled his death accidental and said he died from a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Sources also told 11 Investigates that Rogers, a heavy drinker, had no alcohol in his system and may have been in alcohol withdrawal.

His uncle told Earle that he should have been in rehab at the time of the tasing.

“He was in rehab. He should have still been there. He should have been in rehab,” said Jordan.

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Sources told Earle that Rogers was also on medication for a seizure disorder, but no seizure medication was found in his system.

At a news conference last week to address concerns raised by 11 Investigates about the settlement following our exclusive reporting, the city attorney revealed for the first time that a medical expert for the police union claims Rogers died from that seizure disorder.

She did not elaborate, but sources said that a police union expert contends that the cocaine, combined with alcohol withdrawal, and the lack of any seizure medication in his system caused his death.

Before the police union raised questions about Rogers’ cause of death, the city agreed to pay the Rogers family $8 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, even though since that settlement, three of the four fired officers have already been reinstated, no criminal charges were ever filed against the officers, and the medical examiner ruled the death accidental.

It’s unclear if the city was aware of Rogers’ medical condition at the time of the settlement, but last week the city attorney defended the settlement and the firing of the officers.

“We still believe that the actions of the officers that day caused the death of Mr. Rogers,” said Krysia Kubiak, the city of Pittsburgh solicitor.

“To put it plainly, Mr. Rogers would still be alive today if it were not for the actions of the officers that day,” said Maria Montano, Mayor Ed Gainey’s communication director.

Earle reached out to the city about the new information he uncovered about Rogers’ medical condition at the time of the incident, and the city released a statement.

“The City of Pittsburgh believes that Jim Rogers would be alive today if it were not for the actions the officers took that day. We cannot confirm nor deny the allegations presented by the union’s medical expert, who did not undertake an independent examination of the evidence. The City’s own medical expert will be conducting an independent analysis for his report as part of the labor arbitration case. We have no further comment at this time,” wrote Montano.

As we first reported earlier this month, the city has hired renowned forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu to refute the police union medical expert.

Omalu is expected to testify at a deposition later this month.

Omalu, who we first reported also wrote a report for the attorney who sued the city in this case and released a statement last week.

He called Rogers’ death a homicide and accused the medical examiner, the police union and the government of a cover-up to protect police.

The police union fired back, saying they have complete confidence in the medical examiner’s ability and his findings in the Rogers’ case.

A spokesperson for Allegheny County said the medical examiner would have no comment.

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