Activist group alleges Penn Hills police used excessive force in recent arrest
A Pittsburgh activist group has called on the state Attorney General’s office to ban the use of police dogs on “attacking people” after viewing video of an arrest that shows what the group called excessive force on a Wilkinsburg man.
“The dog should have never been used, in our opinion, and dogs should never be used to attack people at all,” said Brandi Fisher, president of the Alliance for Police Accountability.
Rayquane J. Bowles-Wilds, 21, was arrested June 7 after a traffic stop turned into a fight between him and police officers.
Three videos that were posted to Facebook show parts of the arrest where Penn Hills Police Department and a state Attorney General’s drug strike force apprehend Bowles-Wilds with a police dog. One video shows an officer put his knee on Bowles-Wilds’ head, which was against concrete, while three other officers and a police dog work to detain a writhing Bowles-Wilds.
“He was on the ground, the only thing a dog could do was bite him. This dog didn’t have to go capture him,” Fisher said. “He wasn’t resisting arrest at that point. He was screaming and crying for help from being bitten by a dog and you can hear him screaming.”
Fisher said she also takes issue with the officer’s tactic of using his knee to detain Bowles-Wilds and the use of a Taser.
“It was a serious issue with the amount of force that was used,” she said.
Police Chief Howard Burton said he understands the concerns, but that social media only gives a small bit of the whole story.
“We have police video from dash cams and body cams,” Burton said. “That footage shows the whole story.”
Burton declined to let the Tribune-Review see the footage in case it is needed as evidence in any possible lawsuits, but he said the confrontation started when a Penn Hills police officer conducted a traffic stop because the car had performed an illegal u-turn. He said the officer then noticed tinted windows that prevented him from seeing within the vehicle.
“He asked the driver to put the windows down, but the driver refused,” Burton said, adding the driver-side window was already cracked open. “When the officer asked for the driver’s identification, he handed out the wallet, but pulled it away when the officer reached for it.”
Burton said Bowles-Wilds refused to exit the vehicle after multiple requests.
“Eventually he did get out of the car and that’s when there was a confrontation, a physical confrontation,” he said.
The criminal complaint that was filed against Bowles-Wilds said he attempted twice to “pull away” from the arresting officer, Nathan Laero.
After the second attempt, Laero said in the complaint “I used an arm bar throw (Bowles-Wilds) to the ground and attempt to detain him. (Bowles-Wilds) aggressively resisted arrest, fighting officers and trying to get away from officers.”
It was around that time the police dog was used.
“During the deployment, (Bowles-Wilds) kicked the K-9 police animal and continued to resist arrest,” the complaint said.
Burton said officers from the state Attorney General’s office were assisting Penn Hills police officers in the traffic stop. The chief said the AG began a program in May called the “Street Response Team” that is stationed in Penn Hills dedicated to addressing street crimes and drugs.
Joe Grace, a spokesman for the AG’s office, issued this statement:
“Staff from Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office met (Tuesday morning) with community leaders about the traffic stop in Penn Hills that was captured on video. Our team had a productive dialogue with members of the community, and listened carefully to their concerns. These kinds of conversations with the community are important, and our office is committed to continuing them.”
“We have no comment at this point on the traffic stop and arrest. We will continue reviewing and assessing all of the facts surrounding the incident.”
Burton said his officers will not receive discipline for the way they handled the arrest.
“I know it’s upsetting the public to see that, but they followed procedures,” he said.
According to the affidavit filed against Bowles-Wilds, he faces charges of aggravated assault, resisting arrest, possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, attacking a police animal and traffic violations.
Bowles-Wilds is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in front of Magisterial District Court Judge Anthony DeLuca on June 17. He is currently being held at Allegheny County Jail after being unable to post bail.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .