Pittsburgh community holds vigil for man who died after arrest

BLOOMFIELD — Neighbors in Bloomfield held a vigil Friday for Jim Rogers, the 54-year-old homeless man who died a day after being tazed by police when he was arrested over a stolen bike.

>>> RELATED STORY: Man dies after arrest in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield, neighbors say police used excessive force

Jim Rogers’ two nieces, Diamond and MyKala Rogers, say they just want answers.

“Why, why did they have to taze him that many times?” MyKala Rogers asked. “There’s still so much we don’t know,” she added. “There were so many officers there — it didn’t have to be taken this far.”

Neighbors say Jim Rogers was sitting on someone’s front porch and picked up the bike, rode it around, then returned it. Someone called 911, and police say when they responded, he was noncompliant and resisted arrest. That’s when a Taser was used.

Channel 11 was given up-close video of this incident from a concerned viewer. The video doesn’t show what happened before the officer was interacting with the man or what happened when Rogers was in custody in the back of the police cruiser.

Friday, after the vigil for Jim Rogers at Friendship Park, neighbors marched to Harriet Street, demanding justice for him.

What caused the man to suffer from a medical emergency? The police are looking to the medical examiner for those answers.

In the meantime, we showed the cellphone video to Beth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board.

“I really am still a little bit stunned listening to the audio of that video,” Pittinger said. “I think the man was clearly in distress. He did identify himself. He gave a name. But he also indicated he was in distress. He said he couldn’t breathe. He was having troubling breathing. That bothers me,” Pittinger added.

Pittinger has a lot of questions.

“I want to know if the officer was trained in de-escalation techniques, if he demonstrated competence in those techniques and if he used time and space as tactical efforts to de-escalate the situation until backup arrived.”

We showed this video to a police veteran who now specializes in use of force.

He says the video is difficult to fully observe and sent us a statement that reads in part:

“The officers do not appear to be doing anything excessive or egregious. In fact, once the individual is handcuffed, they quickly move him off his stomach, onto his side and then into a seated position. This is done for the safety of the individual. At no time in this video do I see the officers using excessive force.”

We showed the video to attorney Turahn Jenkins.

“It’s just difficult for me to process that it was for a stolen bike, which he returned, and he was waiting on the porch. Now the man is dead. We don’t know what led up to it. I’m not going to pass judgment, but I think it’s another indictment that police officers need to be trained in the area of mental health.”

Neighbors agree there needs to be a different approach when it comes to people who are suffering from mental illness or drug or alcohol addiction.

“It’s very troubling and has me asking why things work the way they do,” neighbor Andrew Ellsworth said. “I think we need more compassion. That just lacked all kinds of compassion,” Ellsworth added.

While the Allegheny County Police investigates, we’re also hearing from police sources who say Jim Rogers was violent and they have body camera footage from several officers at several angles to prove it.

The officer who deployed the Taser is on paid administrative leave, which is department protocol.