Charges proceed against Pittsburgh firefighter charged in Greenfield scuffle with boy
A 13-year-old boy testified Friday he was trying to defend himself in a June 25 scuffle with an off-duty Pittsburgh firefighter at a Greenfield playground.
The firefighter, Thomas Louis D’Andrea, 46, however, claims he was defending himself from the boy. D’Andrea contends he was trying to detain him until police arrived after he saw the boy vandalizing a construction truck, his attorney, Michael DeRiso, told District Judge Randy Martini during a preliminary hearing on charges of simple assault and criminal mischief.
Martini found probably cause to send the charged filed against D’Andrea to Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.
“He charged me on top of a play set,” the boy, who was identified only by initials in court, testified. “From there, he punched me when I was down.”
D’Andrea also smashed his smartphone, the boy said.
The boy had been playing in what he described as an abandoned truck when D’Andrea confronted him.
“‘You better run. You better run. The cops are on their way.’,” the boy testified that D’Andrea told him.
D’Andrea went back to his house, across the street from the playground, and made a phone call, the boy said.
The boy told his sister they should leave when D’Andrea completed the call and “rushed me,” the boy said.
“He pulled me down by my shirt and punched me,” the boy said.
D’Andrea didn’t testify in his own defense, nor did he comment to reporters as he left Pittsburgh Municipal Court.
D’Andrea has an exemplary record as a Pittsburgh firefighter, and he was trying to do the right thing, DeRiso said.
“If my client was the animal they believe he was, he wouldn’t have been just pinning him down. There would have been a full-on assault when police arrived,” DeRiso said. “This victim isn’t just some soft-spoken, mild-mannered young kid. He was committing a crime and somehow that gets lost in all of this.”
The boy hasn’t been charged with a crime.
When police arrived, they found D’Andrea on top of the boy on the playground equipment, pinning the boy’s arms onto it, Pittsburgh police Officer Genevieve Wilson testified Friday.
The boy had a swollen lip that was bloodied and his phone was smashed, Wilson said.
The area around D’Andrea’s eye also appeared to be reddened in the scuffle, Officer Shane Kearns, Wilson’s partner, testified.
The boy was later taken to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he was treated for injuries including a concussion, said Blaine Jones, the private attorney the boy’s family has retained in the matter.
The boy’s 16-year-old sister recorded a portion of the interaction between her brother and D’Andrea on her cellphone, which Wilson also reviewed, she testified. The video wasn’t introduced as evidence during the hearing.
Assistant District Attorney Lisa Carey objected to an attempt by DeRiso, to introduce a police report the shows a truck that was parked near the playground was damaged because it isn’t relevant to the case. Martini agreed with Carey.
“This isn’t something that was made up,” Jones said. “This man followed him and then engaged him in a fight. At some point in time you have to be the adult. You have to be the bigger person. You have to let the 13-year-old go on about their business until the police officers get here,”
The boy wasn’t committing a crime, but had been sitting in the truck with friends before the dispute with D’Andrea started, Jones said.
“To my knowledge, no damage was done to the truck,” Jones said.
D’Andrea remains on administrative leave from the fire department.
Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .