Pittsburgh Public Safety aware of ‘use of force’ by officers during arrest, incident under review

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Public Safety issued a statement on Saturday evening saying they are aware of a “use of force” encounter that happened during an arrest downtown.

The arrest took place on Friday night, where Smithfield Street meets Strawberry Way.

Court documents allege officers were in the area conducting surveillance when they saw a man, identified as Jashon Martin, get into a fistfight. Martin left after the fight but later returned in different clothes. The court documents state officers thought he was attempting to conceal his identity and possibly a weapon.

As they continued surveillance, officers saw Martin possess marijuana and distribute crack cocaine. These observations led officers to detain Martin.

According to court documents, an officer “bear hugged” Martin because they believed he was armed. The documents also claim Martin kept trying to reach into his front waistband and resisted arrest for three minutes. An officer “delivered a closed fist punch” to Martin, believing he was trying to “retrieve a weapon,” then punched him again after Martin bit him, according to the documents.

“The Gainey Administration, the Department of Public Safety, and City Council are taking this encounter, and the considerable community concern it has generated, extremely seriously and are reviewing all available video footage and gathering as much information as possible pertaining to the incident,” the statement reads.

The arrest is now under investigation, according to city officials:

“As part of this process, Public Safety will commission an independent Use of Force Review to ensure that Pittsburgh Police are adhering to current policy, and national best practices and that the Bureau’s academy and in-service training continues to reflect its’ commitment to serving our communities in a safe, fair, and equitable manner.”

Saturday afternoon, the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP issued a statement, saying:

“We, the undersigned organizations, are deeply troubled by the events that transpired on August 25, 2023, in the city of Pittsburgh, where multiple videos surfaced depicting a distressing incident involving the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers against a Black male individual. We want to express our profound concern and outrage over this incident and the inappropriate behavior exhibited by the officers involved.

“The videos circulating on various platforms vividly depict a scene where the officers employed extreme and unjustifiable force, raising serious questions about the proportionality of their actions as well as the violation of impeding the right of the public to video record. Such actions are in direct contradiction to the principles of justice, equality and the protection of citizens’ rights that should be upheld by those sworn to serve and protect our community.

“It is imperative that incidents of this nature are thoroughly and transparently investigated. We call upon the Mayor, Public Safety Director and the Chief of Police to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the events of August 25, 2023. We request the immediate release of all body camera footage related to the incident in question.

“Furthermore, we demand an urgent meeting with the leadership of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau, including all supervisors directly involved in the incident. This meeting should address not only the specifics of the incident itself but also the broader issues surrounding the conduct, training and oversight of officers involved in this incident. It is essential that steps are taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

“In conclusion, we stand united in condemning the inappropriate and excessive use of force displayed by the officers involved in this incident. We will closely monitor the developments of the investigation and will advocate for justice, fairness and lasting change within our community.”

Martin was charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest and several drug crimes. The court documents allege he also had three warrants for his arrest.

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