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5 officers fired, 3 reinstated after internal investigation into death of Jim Rogers

PITTSBURGH — At a brief news conference this afternoon, the mayor and public safety director confirmed what Target 11 first broke earlier today, that five Pittsburgh police officers have been fired and three reinstated.

The city declined to identify any of the officers but multiple sources tell Target 11 that the fired officers are Keith Edmonds, Greg Boss, Pat Desaro, Neyib Velazquez and Sgt. Colby Neidig.  Edmonds is the officer who tased Rogers. Boss and Desaro drove him to the hospital. Neidig was one of the supervisors on scene.

Related >>> TARGET 11 EXCLUSIVE: 911 call for man who died after being tased in Bloomfield released

Three officers were reinstated and ordered to undergo retraining. They have been identified as Sgt. Carol Ehlinger and Officers Jeff Dean and Paul Froehlich. It’s unclear what led to the decision to reinstate those three officers, as all eight had been recommended for firing.

“Three officers will remain employed with the Bureau and five will no longer be employed by the city of Pittsburgh,” said Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt, who declined to release any details about the investigation, only saying that the officers violated policies and procedures.

The president of the Pittsburgh Police Officers Union, Bob Swartzwelder, declined to discuss any specifics, but said the union will appeal all of the firings.

“We will appeal every case to arbitration that will be heard before a panel of three.  At the end of that case there will be a determination made whether the discipline will be modified, upheld or even eliminated.   We’re going to file for arbitration on every single case as soon as we receive a letter from the public safety director, " said Swartzwelder.

Mayor Ed Gainey, meanwhile, offered his condolences to the family of Jim Rogers and vowed to make changes. Gainey declined to offer any specifics, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize any investigations.

Previous coverage: Investigation into police conduct in death of Jim Rogers recommends firing all but 1 officer

“Mr. Rogers deserved to live a life of joy. He deserved to live a long life. He didn’t deserve to lose his life at the hands of police officers. What his life could have been will stay with me as long as I’m the mayor of this city,” said Gainey.

Swartzwelder took issue with Gainey’s comment about losing “his life at the hands of police officers” and pointed to the autopsy report that called the death accidental.

“I don’t think there’s evidence of that. I think there was an interaction with police but I  don’t think there’s evidence of that at this stage that we are aware of,” said Swartzwelder.

“The death of Jim Rogers is a stark reminder about the work we have in front of us to make our city the safest city in America.  Today sets us on a pathway to continue to improve police, community relations.  We need to all work together to honor the life and legacy of Jim Rogers to create a healthier, safer and equitable city for us all.  And I hope today is an important step forward in showing that we can begin to build the police, community relations that we want to have for our city,” said Gainey.

The Rogers family sent this statement to Target 11 Investigator Rick Earle, who’s broken many new developments in this case during the past several months.

“The family is pleased with what they consider to be a substantial first step in the direction of justice and accountability.  It should be noted that the loss of life under such horrific and unconscionable measures at the hands of the police is a story to often told to the black community.  While we appreciate the thoughtful comments of Mayor Gainey we look forward to substantial changes in the City of Pittsburgh Police Department to ensure that this never happens again.”

The attorney who represents Officer Greg Boss said he’s disappointed with the firing. He told Earle that Boss had an unblemished record during a 22-year career on the force.

“My humble belief is that he followed protocols and directions and did what he was supposed to do consistent with probably paramilitary approach with the Pittsburgh Police and again, I’m just not comfortable with the termination and I dare say that I don’t think a criminal prosecution should be warranted either,” said attorney Bob Delgreco, who represents Boss, and appeared with him at the county grand jury hearing.

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