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Family of Jim Rogers says Pittsburgh will settle wrongful death suit for a record $8 million

Attorney Todd Hollis speaks at a news conference on a Bloomfield street alongside relatives of Jim Rogers and about a dozen police accountability activists
An-Li Herring
90.5 WESA
Lawyer Todd Hollis said Thursday, April 27, that the city of Pittsburgh settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Jim Rogers' estate for $8 million. Hollis said the city has never before paid a settlement that large in a civil rights case.

The City of Pittsburgh will pay $8 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from the October 2021 death of Jim Rogers, who died a day after police repeatedly shocked him with a Taser in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood, a lawyer for Rogers’ family said Thursday.

Local attorney Todd Hollis said the city has never before paid such a large amount to settle a civil rights case. Rogers’ family sued the city in federal court last spring.

“The events that took place that happened to Mr. Rogers [reveal an] egregious lack of humanity from members of the City of Pittsburgh Police Department. … He was treated worse than any animal in the street,” Hollis said Thursday. “It is my hope that — with accountability — that there will be changes and that this will never happen again.”

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Hollis spoke alongside relatives of Rogers’ and roughly a dozen activists during a news conference on Harriet Street, where the altercation took place. A city press secretary did not comment on the settlement Thursday afternoon.

Rogers, 54, was arrested Oct. 13, 2021, after Pittsburgh police officers responded to reports of an alleged theft in Bloomfield, according to Allegheny County Police investigators. The county police said Rogers became “non-compliant” while being placed under arrest, prompting officers to stun him with a Taser.

Other witnesses contend that Rogers never became violent and that he appeared to be experiencing a mental health crisis prior to his arrest. They said he had taken a bicycle from the yard of a home in the neighborhood but returned it before police arrived.

While the settlement provides some accountability, Hollis said, “unfortunately, Mr. Rogers is not here right now, so we can't change that. But we have to make an investment in communication to make sure that this never happens again.”

At Thursday’s news conference, Hollis distributed a list of recommendations for improving policing in Pittsburgh. He said local activists developed the document, with an emphasis on training officers on when and how to use Tasers and how to care for people after deploying the device.

Two months after Rogers’ death, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review obtained police documents that indicated that Rogers had asked for but did not receive medical attention after police shocked him. He was later transported to UPMC Mercy.

Five Pittsburgh police officers were terminated in March 2022 in connection to Rogers’ death while three others were disciplined.

In January 2022, the Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner ruled Rogers' death an accident caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain. But Hollis said on Thursday that, if Rogers had received quicker medical care, he might still be alive.

Hollis said city officials have expressed a willingness to speak with Hollis and members of Rogers’ family about how to improve police practices — a cause for hope for Rogers’ brother, James Frierson.

“Let's make sure we make an impact with this case,” Frierson said Thursday. “Try to make some changes, whether they’re training changes, protocol changes [or] policy and procedural changes.”