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Identity & Community

Community group takes their concerns about the death of Jim Rogers to the state Attorney General

Jim Rogers vigil sign.jpg
Julia Zenkevich
/
90.5 WESA

A group of local churches are calling on Attorney General Josh Shapiro to investigate how Pittsburgh and Allegheny County police handled the case of Jim Rogers. Rogers died in the hospital in October, one day after police shocked him with a Taser.

The Allegheny County medical examiner ruled Roger’s death an accident earlier this month but noted that the cause of death is a medical determination, not a criminal one.

In a letter sent to the attorney general on Wednesday, the group asks Shapiro to ensure that an independent investigation is conducted. They also ask that the officers involved in Roger’s death be “held accountable.”

“In our minds, [that means] bringing forth charges and seeing that the appropriate prosecutions occur,” said Tracy Merrick, a member of the First United Methodist Church, which helped write the letter.

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police disciplined eight officers, including two supervisors, in response to the findings of an internal review. The bureau, however, did not publicly name the officers involved or say how they would be disciplined. Bureau officials also announced policy changes. Officers will be required to complete mandatory medical evaluations of people who have been shocked with a Taser.

Merrick notes that repeated requests by the public and Rogers’ family for more information and transparency have not been acknowledged by local officials.

“The most important thing would be to see that some actions are taken and that the investigations we’ve asked for are forthcoming,” Merrick said.

The group sent a similar letter to Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials in December. Merrick said the requests detailed in the first letter are still unanswered. In that letter, they asked for greater use of de-escalation tactics in non-violent situations, as well as an independent investigation into the case.

In both letters, they also asked for the names of the officers involved in the incident, the unedited body camera footage, and the full autopsy findings.

“Failure to do so will send an odious message to our community, telling them that police violence will be tolerated and that all people – especially Black and Brown people – need to fear for their lives whenever they encounter the police,” the letter reads.

Merrick said it may be difficult for some people to trust the results of an investigation of law enforcement conducted by other members of law enforcement.

“We think that this investigation needs to be performed by an independent organization that’s independent of the law enforcement organizations here in Allegheny County, just to ensure that the just result is forthcoming,” he said.

But, according to the attorney general’s office, the AG does not yet have jurisdiction to investigate the case.

“Under Pennsylvania law, our office does not have jurisdiction to investigate this matter unless a referral is sent by a District Attorney for either a conflict or resource need,” said Molly Stieber, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office.

In a statement, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said, “if the legislature and the attorney general want to assume full responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of police involved use of force matters, I would support that.”

However, Mike Manko, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office, said they had not formally referred the case to the state attorney general.