FBI investigating whether Millvale police violated civil rights in Taser incident
The FBI and Allegheny County District Attorney's Office will begin a full investigation into an incident in which Millvale police used a Taser on a handcuffed man, FBI spokeswoman Kelly Kochamba confirmed Tuesday.
Kochamba said the investigation will focus on whether police committed civil rights violations on Sept. 21, when they shocked Thomas Jason Smith, 27, of Millvale.
She said an initial assessment of the incident has found enough evidence to warrant the more thorough review, though she would not put a timeline on the investigation.
“There is enough information, but we don't comment on the details of that,” Kochamba said, declining to elaborate.
Mike Manko, spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., declined to comment on Kochamba's remarks but said any deviation from county standards for Taser use “is cause for concern both for our office and the community.”
Borough police arrested Smith on charges that included disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, resisting arrest and aggravated harassment by a prisoner. A 52-second leaked video shows an officer using a Taser to shock a shirtless, handcuffed Smith after officials took him into custody.
Smith has bipolar disorder, depression and other mental health problems, according to his mother, Ann Shannon of Millvale. The recording shows him knocking his head against office furniture just before an emergency-responder drags him away by the arms. An officer fires the Taser when Smith begins pulling away from the other responder.
The FBI and district attorney's office started reviewing the matter in January, when an unidentified person sent the video to the Tribune-Review and Downtown-based attorney David Shrager. Shrager is now representing Smith, whose family has not ruled out civil action. Smith has pleaded not guilty to the Sept. 21 charges.
Shrager said he's confident that FBI and county officials “will perform a complete and thorough investigation.”
“This is the outcome I had anticipated and hoped for,” Shrager wrote via email. He said Smith's family is looking only for justice and “the full truth of what happened.”
Smith remains in Allegheny County Jail on a 90-day sentence stemming from unpaid fines for unrelated summary offenses and is expected for release in March.
Millvale solicitor Jack Cambest, police Chief Derek Miller and Officer Nichole Murphy, identified in a criminal complaint as having subdued Smith, could not be reached on Tuesday.
Millvale Council is receiving updates through Cambest and Mayor Vincent F. Cinski's office, said council President James Machajewski. Cinski referred questions to Cambest.
“We're concerned, but we're waiting for additional information,” Machajewski said.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Dallas hospital officials confirm 1st Ebola case diagnosed in U.S.
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin bringing officials to practice
- Pittsburgh rallies for second year of Pirates magic
- Safety worries prompt PennDOT to order nighttime closures on Parkway West
- Steelers film session: Harrison on the field often
- Chief says Youngwood house fire is suspicious
- Police find pipe bombs in woods during manhunt for suspect in trooper ambush
- FedEx facility in Butler County could bring hundreds of jobs
- Public station WQED cutting staff in face of financial woes
- LNG exports get federal approval from Dominion’s Cove Point terminal
- Somerset man accused of taking son, 3, along on burglary