Third officer testifies in Jordan Miles federal civil rights lawsuit
Two Pittsburgh police officers testified in federal court on Tuesday that they feared for their lives, and that of a third officer, during a 2010 arrest of a Homewood man.
Their testimony, however, cast doubt on an FBI report that is the only evidence that seemingly corroborates their claim the man was carrying a soda bottle that the other officer mistook for a weapon.
Officer David Sisak, 32, testified he saw Jordan Miles reaching for his waist immediately after Officer Michael Saldutte, 30, said Miles was going for a gun. Fearing that he would, Sisak said he punched Miles three times in the face to make him stop struggling.
“The only other thing I could do was pull my gun,” he said.
Because he was directly in front of Miles, trying to pin him to the ground while the other two officers handcuffed him, Sisak said he would have been Miles' first target.
Officer Richard Ewing, 30, testified that when Sisak's punches didn't work, he kneed Miles on the neck just above his shoulders to stun him long enough to handcuff him.
“I was scared for my life, and I was scared for my partners' lives,” Ewing said.
Miles, 20, claims that Sisak, Ewing and Saldutte violated his civil rights and left him with brain damage during the arrest.
The officers deny violating his rights or inflicting permanent injuries.
U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster told jurors that testimony will end by Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning, and they likely will begin deliberations Thursday afternoon.
One of the main decisions they will have to make is whether Miles was carrying a bottle of Mountain Dew in his right coat pocket. Miles testified he didn't have a bottle and that his pocket was empty.
Saldutte testified that the bottle caused a bulge in Miles' pocket that, combined with his behavior, led him to believe Miles was armed.
Ryan Allen, 19, told FBI agents that Miles told him in a phone conversation two days after the arrest that he was carrying a bottle, according to an FBI investigation.
Allen testified that he couldn't recall the details of the conversation and couldn't remember telling the FBI that Miles said he was carrying a bottle.
Sisak and Ewing challenged details in the FBI report during their testimony. Sisak denied telling the FBI that Saldutte tackled Miles during the arrest and Ewing denied telling the FBI that he had no martial arts training.
They both pointed out that the report is an FBI overview of its investigation and not a verbatim account of their statements.
The city has settled Miles' claim against it for $75,000 but, as part of the agreement, would pay any damages assessed against the officers if the jury finds for Miles.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.