Community members continue to press authorities for answers about Taser death of Jim Rogers
Members of two Pittsburgh churches are demanding answers from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials about the death of Jim Rogers, a Black man who died in October after Pittsburgh police shocked him with a Taser in Bloomfield.
In a letter sent to leaders including Mayor Bill Peduto and Police Chief Scott Schubert on Tuesday, congregants from Warren United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church sent a letter to city officials asking for “justice and transparency” in the case.
“We certainly know that investigations take a long time, but two months is a significant passage of time, and it seems that some information could have been released to the public and to the family,” said Tracy Merrick, a member of the First United Methodist Church and the church’s Wrestling with Racism Team, which wrote the letter.
Police said Rogers became “non-compliant” when he was arrested for allegedly stealing a bike, which neighbors said Rogers returned before the police arrived. According toother witnesses, Rogers was not violent and appeared to be experiencing a crisis, but he was shocked multiple times.
“This is not the first death of a black man after an encounter with police in the Pittsburgh area. It brings to mind Jonny Gammage, Antwon Rose, and many others across the country,” the letter states.
Congregants are asking for the names of the officers involved in the incident, the unedited body camera footage and the autopsy findings to be released. Among their eight demands, they also ask for more changes in how police try to de-escalate non-violent incidents and a “thorough investigation of this incident by an unbiased independent organization unrelated to any police department.”
“It’s apparent to us that this situation did not need to escalate the way it did,” said Merrick. In non-violent cases, he suggested sending social workers or behavioral health specialists alongside or in place of the police could “result in fewer deaths of unarmed, largely Black men in these sorts of cases.”
The Office of Community Health and Safety was launched this year as part of an effort to change how police respond to mental health crises, though the department isnot fully operational.
Merrick said the churches will continue to stay involved and press for answers in Roger’s death.
“It’s a trend,” he said. “And there needs to be a much more complete and transparent dealing with this case.”
"We have and will continue to cooperate with the Allegheny County Police Department who is in charge of the investigation,” Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement Monday evening.
“In addition, we are running a concurrent internal investigation around any potential policy violations and will share all of that information with the incoming Gainey Administration. We will also fully cooperate as needed with the District Attorney whose job it is to prosecute crimes."
According to Allegheny County Police Superintendent Christopher Kearns, the county police’s investigation into the incident is ongoing. The medical examiner has not disclosed a cause of death.