Pittsburgh to pay $77,500 to settle police brutality lawsuit
Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to pay a South Park man $77,500 to settle a federal lawsuit alleging a former city police officer assaulted him and violated his civil rights during high school football championships at Heinz Field in 2015.
Gabriel Despres, 23, sued the city and Landmark Event Staffing Services Inc., claiming that former police Sgt. Stephen Matakovich assaulted and arrested him without cause on Nov. 28, 2015.
“Officer Matakovich was found guilty of a use of force that was not appropriate and violations of the civil rights of (Despres),” Mayor Bill Peduto said. “We were held liable and we found a settlement that we felt was fair.”
Matakovich was convicted in 2017 of assaulting Despres and is serving a 27-month sentence in federal prison.
The lawsuit alleges that Landmark security staff falsely detained Despres and acted in concert with Matakovich.
The settlement requires Landmark to pay Despres $20,000.
Video of the incident shows Matakovich pushing Despres, then 19, and repeatedly slapping his head after the teen left and attempted to re-enter Heinz Field. Despres pleaded guilty to trespassing and public drunkenness in connection with the incident.
Peduto said the city would continue to hold police officers accountable for their actions.
“When something is done that is not correct, we will pursue legal avenues and we will hold all of our officers to the highest standards as we work to create a police bureau of that same type of integrity,” he said. “I do believe that within the police bureau right now there is a much greater scale of accountability with this command staff that is in place than what we’ve seen in the past.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .