Taser video doesn't tell whole story, Millvale solicitor says
By Adam Smeltz
Published: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Investigators might have obtained a more comprehensive recording of a Millvale police officer shocking a handcuffed man than the video that was leaked to the media, borough solicitor Jack Cambest said on Friday.
After discussions with police Chief Derek Miller, Cambest said a new and better video might have surfaced on Thursday during an interview with a part-time officer who observed and recorded the Sept. 21 incident.
Miller did not return a call for comment.
“I have not seen it,” Cambest said of the recording. “The investigation is still ongoing” by Millvale.
A 52-second video leaked to the Tribune-Review and attorney David Shrager this week shows Thomas Jason Smith, 27, of Millvale sitting on a floor shirtless with his hands cuffed behind his back. Smith knocks his head against some furniture before an emergency responder drags him away by the arms.
When Smith pulls away from that responder, a police officer identified as Nichole Murphy fires a Taser to subdue the man just before the recording cuts off.
Murphy wrote in a criminal complaint that Smith tried to attack officers. The footage does not reflect that.
Murphy did not return calls.
That video might have been incomplete, and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said he wanted to be sure he had a full, unedited version for a review he announced on Tuesday.
The FBI joined the DA's office in that effort, looking in part for possible civil rights violations.
Zappala spokesman Mike Manko said the office now has “the full video in question,” though he declined to specify whether it's longer than the version the Trib obtained.
“When questions arise concerning the use of force on someone who is in custody, the district attorney wants to see those questions answered,” Manko wrote via email.
Smith's mother said he has bipolar disorder and other mental health issues, according to Shrager, his attorney. Police arrested Smith on Sept. 21 on charges of disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, resisting arrest and aggravated harassment by a prisoner.
He was released from jail in November but arrested again in the same month on drug and weapons charges. Smith remains in the county jail awaiting a hearing Jan. 25.
“Certainly he doesn't believe he did anything that would warrant the treatment he received,” Shrager said.
Cambest said police leadership disciplined Murphy shortly after the incident but opened an internal investigation when the footage emerged this week.
Murphy was not suspended or terminated.
The borough is looking at whether police broke policies and how the video reached the news media.
Shrager said he does not know who leaked the video to him. The source who supplied it to the Trib has not revealed his or her identity either.
“If they want to come forward, they can,” Shrager said.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676or 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.
- Allegheny County Democrats endorse several incumbents in primary
- Photo gallery: Swing for a Cure
- Western Psychiatric clinic rampage victim’s parents seek answers, lawyer says
- Trib’s Hiel honored for reporting on Coptic Christians
- Web of surveillance videos helps ensnare suspect in East Liberty slayings
- Donor name to be stripped from Penn Hills library
- Historical markers approved for 21 sites around Pennsylvania
- Newsmaker: Jack Goodrich
- Pittsburgh to foot bill for police working Market Square during St. Patrick’s Day
- Suspect in East Liberty slayings may be part of murder-for-hire case
- Woman dies in crash on Liberty Avenue in Strip District