Victim’s family demands answers from Pittsburgh police following officer-involved Tasing
On Friday, about 50 people met in Friendship Park for a vigil to honor a Black man who died after Pittsburgh police shocked him with a Taser during an arrest earlier this week.
“We’ve been through this before: Antwon Rose, Romir Talley, George Floyd,” said attendee Helen Hobdy. “All these people that’s gotten killed by the police. It’s happening too much.”
The man, identified by the Allegheny County Medical Examiner as 54-year-old Jim Rogers, was in transport to a hospital for medical clearance on Wednesday morning before being incarcerated when police said he “became unresponsive.” He was subsequently admitted to the hospital. He was pronounced dead at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday. Authorities did not release the cause of death.
“We need answers,” said Mykala Rogers, one of Rogers’ nieces.
Rogers was arrested on Wednesday after the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police responded to reports of an alleged theft on Harriet Street in Bloomfield. Police said Rogers became “non-compliant” during the arrest, “during which a Taser was deployed.”
The vigil started in Friendship Park before attendees moved through Bloomfield to hold a moment of silence at the intersection of Harriet Street and West Penn Place, where Rogers was Tased. As people walked through the streets, they chanted phrases like “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” and “Black lives matter.” After returning to Friendship Park, attendees dispersed.
“Police brutality is nothing new for Pittsburgh and the rest of the country,” said Ilyas Khan, who attended the vigil.
“I wonder… as a person of color, if someone in my family could be next,” he said. “The possibility of it is frightening. And I’m here because the community has lost a member and because people are scared.”
Diamond Rogers, Rogers’ niece, said she was heartened by the number of strangers who attended the vigil.
“This is the type of thing that he would do for somebody else. I wish he was here to see it,” she said.
Some speakers said police should have tried a more gentle intervention with Rogers, who appeared to be experiencing a crisis.
“These police officers need to be trained,” said Hobdy. “They need to get sensitivity training, diversity training. And they claim they have it — well why aren’t we seeing it?”
According to the city police’s annual 2020 statistical report, police received a "new Taser platform" called TASER 7 last year. The report notes that the platform “gives officers more less lethal options as well as greater ability to de-escalate.” According to the report, 477 officers received training on how to use the Taser before instruction was halted due to COVID-19. The report states that “TASER 7 training will be a priority in 2021.”
Deploying a Taser is one of a number of “Tier 4” actions an officer might take when using force. Other Tier 4 actions include “Neck Restraint, Impact Weapon, [and] Police Canines,” the report states. Tier 5, the most severe use-of-force option for officers, is “Intended Discharge of Firearm.”
As with other police tactics, in 2020, Tier 4 techniques were disproportionately used on Black people. Last year, Black people were the subject of about 63% of Tier 4 techniques; Black people make up about 23% of Pittsburgh’s population.
Hobdy urged listeners to get to know their neighbors.
“Neighbors should get to know each other. Instead of calling the police about everything, maybe go over and talk to your neighbor, get to know your neighbor, and maybe you all can get the problem resolved without getting the police involved. Because we’re seeing a lot of police brutality that we shouldn’t be seeing.”
Allegheny County Police are investigating the incident.