Woman sues Allegheny County Jail over excessive force

PITTSBURGH — A Pittsburgh woman says corrections officers abused her using excessive force inside the Allegheny County jail. The alleged abuse occurred when she was 20 years old.

She is now suing the facility, after she says the officers shoved her, sending her face first into an elevator rail before tasering her.

Kimberly Andrews, 20, was incarcerated on two misdemeanor charges. Surveillance video shows her being escorted into the Allegheny County Jail after she had just been treated at the hospital and kept in solitary confinement.

“I feel like I was trying to recover from a mental health crisis, I just left the hospital from a suicide attempt. They didn’t help me at all. I wanted to go to sleep,” Andrews said.

That is when she was pushed while her hands were cuffed, her face hitting the elevator bar on the way down.

“I honestly don’t know why I was pushed and then tased, I wasn’t aggressive, I wasn’t resisting, I was walking,” she said. “I hit my head off the back bar of the elevator and then instantly I was being tased, I couldn’t save my fall, I couldn’t do nothing cause I was cuffed.”

Corrections officers including Sgt. Alyssia Tucker, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, then tased her a second time.

Andrews said she was then dragged to the door of the elevator, put on her stomach and then tased again before being placed in a restraint chair and allegedly left strapped in for 8 hours.

Her lawyers at the Abolitionist Law Center are asking the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate. They say Allegheny County Jail’s use of force exceeds all other jails in the state, specifically using the restraint chair.

“It’s unquestionably clear Sgt. Tuckers assault is criminal and she and those who allowed it to happen need to be investigated,” attorney Jaclyn Kurin said.

This year Allegheny County passed a referendum banning use of the restraint chair, chemical agents and solitary confinement in the jail, which goes into effect in December. The county declined to comment, citing the legal case, which is set for a jury trial in January.

Lou Takacs, communications director for county Controller Chelsa Wagner released a statement that said:

“Despite repeated requests, use of force numbers are not reported to the Jail Oversight Board. In May, the Controller’s office reviewed reports on restraint chair utilization which showed its routine use on individuals for hours at a time, and generally contained little detail on the reasons for placing an individual in the restraint chair. While the Board has been given no indication that the Jail has changed when or how it uses the restraint chair since the passage of the May ballot measure, there is every reason to drastically reduce or suspend its use immediately in preparation for it taking effect.”