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Identity & Community

City Investigates Use of Force in Downtown Police Chase, Arrest

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Samm Hodges
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A view from above the street where Devon Davis was apprehended and arrested.

The city of Pittsburgh’s Office of Municipal Investigations is looking into the use of force against an African American man wanted on two warrants after a police chase on Wednesday.

Devon Davis, 23, of the North Side was apprehended by police, who said he “sustained injuries to both legs as a result of the vehicle crash” after a car he was driving collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Wood St. and Ft. Pitt Blvd.

But at least one witness to the subsequent foot chase and arrest said Davis did not appear to be injured when he was running from police.

“The police reports were saying he was hobbling or he was injured in the car crash beforehand and I watched him running really quickly, then being tackled, then being beat, beat, beat in the legs, and that’s when he had to be carried away,” said Samm Hodges, a commercial director and writer who wrote a letter to Police Chief Cameron McLay describing what he witnessed.

Hodges said a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article had cited Public Safety spokesperson Sonya Toler as saying Davis was found severely injured in a pool of his own blood. He said that statement is untrue, which prompted him to write the letter to McLay.

That letter was then picked up and published by the left-leaning news and opinion website Daily Kos.

In the letter, Hodges wrote “(Davis) was tackled and then beaten severely while pinned to the ground by a whole swarm of officers.”

Hodges said he received an immediate response from Chief McLay who said there would be an investigation into the matter. McLay has been vocal about challenging racial profiling and inappropriate use of police force since he joined the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police in 2014.

The city said in an official statement that OMI is investigating, and “as with all use of force cases where impropriety is alleged, OMI will seek an outside review by a third party expert as part of its investigation.”

The city also said it will have no further comment, to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing investigation.

Public Safety spokesperson Sonya Toler told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Friday that “it is understandable that untrained people would question the use of something they’re not trained in.”

Davis was wanted on two bench warrants involving illegal gun possession and drug delivery charges.