The following statement was released by Pittsburg Police after a citizen captured video of what some considered to be excessive force. In response, Pittsburg Police released their own body cam footage:
We are aware of a video circulating on social media that shows disturbing cellphone video of Pittsburg Police Officers making an arrest. The video shows an officer throwing a man to the ground then punching him several times. Some who’ve viewed the video mistakenly believe the suspect was handcuffed – but he was not.
Several citizens have brought this video, which has limited audio and was taken from a distance, to our attention. It is important to note that often a single video does not tell the full story. So, we have decided to release the officers’ body-worn camera footage to make the story as complete and open as possible.
This incident occurred on Saturday, September 15th. We received a call about a man walking with a cup of gasoline in his hand in the area of Power Avenue. The caller suspected the man had stolen gasoline from one of the cars – which had a punctured gas tank. The first officer who arrived found a 31-year-old man who matched the description and who also had prior contacts with the officer. Oddly, he was wearing a baggy jacket in the middle of a warm day.
The man had his right hand in his pocket as if concealing something from the officer’s view. The officer told the man to drop what he was holding in his right hand. He refused while saying he did not “trust you guys”. After another order to drop the item, the man slid a crowbar down from his jacket sleeve into his hand and said “shoot me, shoot me”.
A second officer responded to the scene and they repeated the order until the man threw the crowbar to the ground. But, the suspect remained uncooperative and refused to comply with lawful orders. As the officers moved in and tried to handcuff him, he pulled away to resist arrest. That’s when one of the officers took the man to the ground where he continued to struggle as they attempted to handcuff him. Despite their efforts, they were unable to bring his wrists together. Both officers then delivered “distraction blows” or punches (both open handed and closed) in an effort to distract him enough to bring his arms behind his back which ultimately proved successful when he was cuffed.
The man did receive lacerations and was treated by medical personnel.
He was arrested for resisting arrest and violating the terms of his probation. Officers do believe he is the man who stole the gas, but the theft investigation is still on-going.
By policy, officers should use force as a last resort. By it’s nature, it never looks good. But, often the use of force is both for public and officer safety. The Police Chief personally reviews every incident where an officer uses force. This case is no different.
The Department has launched an internal investigation to determine if the force used during this incident was appropriate and reasonable.
We appreciate the community’s continued support, and we hope this body-worn video and additional details help shed light on what happened during this arrest.