Taser recipient foggy on details; Millvale Borough attorney says it likely fired two or three times
Millvale police likely shocked a handcuffed man two or three times in the station in September, even though outside investigators found an officer's Taser was discharged 20 times, borough solicitor Jack Cambest said Friday.
“The equipment may have registered 20. But I guess you could call them false firings” that the Taser recorded earlier, Cambest said, citing an internal review run by police Chief Derek Miller. “That's our understanding.”
The FBI and Allegheny County District Attorney's Office are investigating whether police violated Thomas Jason Smith's civil rights on Sept. 21 when Officer Nichole Murphy used the Taser on him. A video shows Smith, 27, sitting shirtless on a floor just before police shocked him.
“It's really a blur,” Smith said Friday, trying to recall the incident. Police arrested him on charges of disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, resisting arrest and aggravated harassment by a prisoner. He was released from the Allegheny County Jail on Tuesday following an unrelated, 90-day sentence for unpaid fines.
Smith pleaded not guilty to the Sept. 21 charges. He said he doesn't remember how many times the Taser was fired or how many people were in the room. He remembers standing up and being shocked from behind.
“I looked and there wasn't anybody there but someone had Tased me,” Smith said. “Then I just stood up again. I wasn't bothering anyone. I don't even think there was any commands or anything.
“Next thing I know, I have two clamps stuck in my back” from the Taser, he said of the second shock. “I'm not sure how long it went on at all. It just felt like it was going on forever.”
Neither Miller nor Murphy responded to calls seeking comment.
Although police leadership disciplined Murphy soon after the incident, Miller began looking at the matter again when someone leaked the 52-second video in January to the Tribune-Review and Downtown-based attorney David Shrager.
Cambest said others in the police department might be disciplined in connection with the case. Miller has finished his internal investigation.
“We're giving (FBI and county investigators) a little bit more time to see if they come up with anything additional,” Cambest said.
It isn't clear how long the investigation might run.
“We continue to review the matter and that's all I can really say at this point,” said Mike Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.
Smith said the FBI interviewed him in jail.
Shrager said Smith's family members are “exploring every possible civil remedy, up to and including filing a civil lawsuit.” Smith has bipolar disorder, depression and other mental health problems, according to his mother, Ann Shannon of Millvale.
Shannon and Smith said they're looking to leave the area. He said the Taser incident left him with lasting physical effects, including a numb hand, and a cautious outlook.
“I don't go around people as much. I try to stay away from the police department, if possible,” Smith said. “I try to take an alleyway so I'm not on the main streets, so I'm not seen. I just try to take precautions.”
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
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.
- School credit ratings a problem for several in Western Pennsylvania
- ‘Turf battle’ blamed in fights that canceled Carrick church festival
- Boy Scouts’ end to ban on gay leaders unnerves religious groups
- Remains of 4 early colonial leaders discovered at Jamestown
- Rising East Liberty out of reach for Pittsburgh’s poor
- City, ex-manager of Pittsburgh police Office of Personnel and Finance reach settlement
- W.Va. authorities charge 87 with drug trafficking
- Projects advance through Pittsburgh planning commission despite opposition
- Pittsburgh man jailed on theft, assault and drug charges
- Western Pa.’s ties to 2016 White House race extend beyond Santorum
- Service restored following water main break in Baldwin Borough