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Grandma not Tasered during melee, police say

| Tuesday, July 29, 2008, 12:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh police Monday denied claims they Tasered a grandmother during an East Hills melee in which residents clashed with police and private security.

Sgt. Stephen Vinansky said the 54-year-old woman -- whom he did not name -- fainted and collapsed during the Sunday night incident, which police say started after residents reopened a fire hydrant to cool down. The woman was taken to West Penn Hospital because of a pre-existing neck condition, Vinansky said.

Some witnesses and people at the scene of the melee said police used a Taser on the woman and used excessive force to control the growing crowd.

"She was not Tasered," Vinansky said.

A Taser was used on Gary Cain, 18, of Penn Hills, who punched a security guard in the face and then assaulted two officers, according to a police affidavit. Deputy police Chief Paul Donaldson said Cain was "contact-Tasered" -- which means the officer needed to be touching him to use it -- about three times.

Police arrested Cain and four juveniles, boys ages 15 to 17, after the incident.

Donaldson defended his officers, some of whom were injured.

"We believe that the officers acted appropriately, acted as they were trained," he said.

No one had contacted the Citizen Police Review Board about the incident, said Beth Pittinger, the group's executive director.

"Certainly, there are facts that are disputed," Pittinger said. "Our concern is responsible citizenship comes in, as well. It's illegal to open a fire hydrant .... There are a lot of concerns around the incident that we cannot ignore."

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