PITTSBURGH — “Charge these officers now!” chanted 20 protesters outside the City-County Building here Dec. 17, demanding the cops who repeatedly stunned Jim Rogers with Tasers Oct. 13 be charged. Rogers died in the hospital the next day. His family and friends have been organizing weekly vigils and protests since.
Rogers, a 54-year-old African American who was homeless, had been confronted by cops after they received a report he had taken a bicycle from a front yard, rode it around, and then returned it. The cops said they decided he was “noncompliant.” Video taken on the scene shows Tasers being used against him at least eight times, and cops rolling him around on the ground.
“Those 12 officers failed to uphold policy,” Devon Adwoa told fellow protesters. “We demand the names of every official on the scene, and the release of the surveillance footage and body camera footage taken that day.” Adwoa said that the officers should face charges “for their crimes and negligence that day.”
Adwoa told the Tribune-Review, “We’ve heard almost nothing in the months we’ve been fighting this.” Mayor-elect Edward Gainey has declined to answer questions about Rogers, saying he hadn’t been briefed on the situation.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office Jan. 3 reported that Rogers died from a lack of oxygen to the brain, but termed it “accidental.”
“We know, at the end of the day, District Attorney Stephen Zappala has the power to charge these officers,” Adwoa told the Tribune-Review. “That’s one of our concrete demands.” There are plans for further protests.
Days after the Dec. 17 action, police here released a report revealing Rogers pleaded for help at least 13 times after being put in the back of the police car. “I need a hospital, I can’t breathe, get a medic, help me,” the report quoted him saying.
Despite officers saying that Rogers had requested medical assistance, emergency medical technicians who were called to the scene never tended to him, instead spending their time decontaminating cops who had gotten hit by Rogers’ blood.
The officers who finally drove Rogers to the hospital arrived almost 40 minutes after he’d been arrested. They told hospital personnel that Rogers was unresponsive and CPR was started.
In the wake of the police report, outgoing Mayor William Perduto told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Dec. 29 that disciplinary action reports had been served on nine cops for their treatment of Rogers. No details have been provided on what action has been proposed and against which officers. Any proposed discipline must be approved the city’s Director of Public Safety. The city still refuses to release the officers’ names.