Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said Wednesday that he “has a problem” with a Pittsburgh police officer’s violent arrest of a man outside a South Side bar Sunday.
Officer Raymond Toomey kneed, kicked and punched 26-year-old Nathan Stanley III during the arrest outside the Flats On Carson at 1500 E. Carson St around 2 a.m. Sunday, after Mr. Stanley allegedly told the officer that he had a gun.
Nathan Stanley III
A bystander filmed a 10-second video that captured the end of the arrest, when Officer Toomey kneed and kicked Mr. Stanley in the face while the man was on the ground.
“I’ve got a problem with kicking someone in the head,” Mr. Zappala said.
Officer Toomey wrote in a report that he feared Mr. Stanley was reaching for a gun in his waistband when he delivered the blows to the face, but Mr. Zappala said Wednesday he did not see Mr. Stanley make such a motion in the 10-second clip.
“If the officer felt he was in danger and [Mr. Stanley] was going for an area which could conceal a gun, then use force if that is what it takes,” Mr. Zappala said. “But I don’t see that in the 10-second video. I don’t see his hands anywhere near his waist, for instance.”
Mr. Zappala said his office plans to consult with a use-of-force specialist from outside the city on whether the officer should face criminal charges. He also reviewed surveillance video footage from the bar, and said it is “not as clear” in that video whether Mr. Stanley ever appeared to reach for a weapon.
The bar video shows Mr. Stanley and Officer Toomey interacting in the moments before the 10-second clip was filmed, Mr. Zappala said.
“There is a struggle, and he does put his hands on the officer, which is technically a crime,” Mr. Zappala said. “Why that happened is unclear. We have a constitutional right in this country to say what you want to say in a public place. That’s protected speech. So if he was arrested for protected speech, that is a problem, too.”
Mr. Zappala spoke to the press during a senior fair at the IBEW Local 5 headquarters on the South Side on Wednesday, after meeting with Pittsburgh police Chief Scott Schubert and Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich to discuss the case earlier in the day.
Mr. Zappala said he believes police plan to administratively discipline Officer Toomey. Police spokeswoman Emily Schaffer would not confirm that on Wednesday, and said only that the investigation is ongoing. Police said on Monday that Officer Toomey and a second officer involved in the arrest, Officer Shenandoah Welsh, remained on active duty.
Any investigation by the district attorney’s office will be in addition to investigations by police, the Office of Municipal Investigations and the Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board. The FBI is reviewing the case for possible federal violations, including civil rights violations, Supervisory Special Agent Gregory Heeb said.
Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the CPRB, said she believes the district attorney’s review is appropriate.
“It’s very encouraging, because when you have a police officer engaged in such violent behavior without what appears to be cause, and contrary to what the written report describes, that is very disconcerting to the public,” she said.
Chris Cimballa, attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1, did not return a request for comment Wednesday.