Probe of Millvale man's Tasering continues
The Millvale man shocked by borough police now shakes constantly, developed a hand twitch and has been having severe panic and anxiety attacks since the Taser incident in September, his mother said Thursday.
“He's suffering,” said Ann Shannon, 46, of Millvale, who wants to see officials take action against the police involved. “He's more scared of people now than what he was before.”
She said her son, Thomas Jason Smith, 27, also endures severe back pain since his Sept. 21 arrest, when a borough officer used a Taser to shock him, a leaked video shows.
The FBI and the Allegheny County District Attorney's office are assessing the 52-second footage, which reveals Smith had been sitting on a floor shirtless and handcuffed just before a borough officer fired the device.
Investigators found the Taser was discharged 20 times within a short period, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said.
But he said it's unclear whether all those shocks were used on Smith, a question under review in the joint assessment with the FBI. The electroshock devices record the date and time of each discharge.
“Tasers are weapons, not toys,” Zappala said. He said firing it 20 times on Smith would amount to a crime.
FBI and DA investigators are looking at possible civil-rights violations and whether a deeper investigation should begin, FBI spokeswoman Kelly Kochamba said.
The officer listed in a criminal complaint against Smith as having fired the Taser, Nichole Murphy, and borough police Chief Derek Miller did not return repeated calls for comment, though Murphy wrote in the complaint that Smith tried to attack officers.
Millvale police disciplined Murphy soon after the September incident, then opened a fresh internal investigation in January when new video surfaced, borough solicitor Jack Cambest said.
He would not disclose Murphy's punishment but confirmed she was not suspended or fired.
“The investigation by the chief (Miller) is ongoing,” Cambest said Thursday, adding borough officials are cooperating with FBI and county officials. “We can't comment on any potential discipline until those investigations are complete.”
He has said the footage, sent anonymously to the Tribune-Review and lawyer David Shrager, was taken by a part-time officer for unknown reasons. It shows Smith muttering and banging his head on an office cubicle post before an emergency responder drags him away from the furniture by the arms.
Smith pulls away from that responder within moments, and an officer fires a Taser to subdue him just before the footage cuts off. The recording offers no evidence of an attack on officials.
Cambest has said a longer version of the video might have surfaced during the borough's investigation.
Smith has not relayed how many times he believes he was shocked, Shrager and Shannon said. But “his perception was that it went on forever,” Shrager said. Shannon said he has bipolar disorder, depression and other mental-health problems.
Smith has pleaded not guilty to the charges on which he was arrested Sept. 21, which include disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, resisting arrest and aggravated harassment by a prisoner. His arraignment is scheduled for Friday.
Meanwhile, Smith remains in the Allegheny County Jail on a 90-day sentence stemming from unpaid fines for summary offenses, Shrager said. He is due for release in March.
Staff writer Bobby Kerlik contributed to this report. 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.
- Pittsburgh cracks down on overcrowded houses
- Pittsburgh police say officers in video did not use excessive force
- Charges officially dropped against Ford, who is recovering from surgery
- Woman sought in ‘friendly fire’ fatal shooting in Brighton Heights
- Newsmaker: Bill Gruber
- W.Va. natural gas line explodes near Ohio border
- U.S. Marshals fugitive task force arrests man wanted in McKeesport homicide
- Appellate court upholds most of jury’s verdict against officials of Lemington Home for the Aged
- Three arrested in armed robbery in Lawrenceville
- Hillview Street in Overbrook to be closed until Feb. 9
- Project to End Human Trafficking volunteers help Uganda