In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a viral cell phone video captures a black woman filming an off-duty police officer harassing a group of black teenage girls before she’s tackled to the ground and cuffed all while the cop continued smoking his cigarette.
Melanie Carter is the local Pittsburgh resident who took the footage and suffered the brutal attack seen in the video. The incident took place at the North Versailles Stadium 18 movie theater. Carter was outside` filming the theater manager’s verbal confrontation with three black teenage girls when she was initially approached by the officer who asked her if she had a light for his cigarette.
Meanwhile, the manager is seen accusing the girls of causing a disturbance in the theater, claiming that he “has a witness” to their misbehavior.
“You guys have been a problem since you got here,” an off-duty officer, who had just asked Carter for a light for his cigarette, said, entering the fray.
“Everybody’s out,” the officer continued, with the agreement of the manager who claimed he’s “calling the shots.”
Carter then spoke up from behind the camera, saying the officer and manager were treating the girls “like animals.”
“You’re behaving like an animal,” the manager said to her, getting very close to Carter and the camera.
It was then the officer, who apparently found a light for his cigarette, approached Carter and told her that she needed to leave and that she was “trespassing.” Carter refused, said to him that she had not broken any laws and that she was a paying customer with children in the building. It was at that point the officer took out his handcuffs and proceeded to handcuff Carter (all while still puffing on his cigarette).
Carter’s camera suddenly shakes violently as the officer tackles her to the ground. Carter accuses the officer of banging her head on the pavement and putting his knee in her back while placing her under unlawful arrest.
The incident took place on February 23; Carter is asking the Facebook community for help obtaining legal counsel.
Here’s the video.
Meanwhile, the theater issued a statement in which it apologized for the General Manager Jason Bauer’s behavior and stated that he was no longer employed with the company following the conclusion of an internal investigation. They also noted that the officer was not an employee of the theater.
During a recent interview, Bauer expressed his disappointment with his former employer’s decision and said his choice of words were not racially motivated:
“My place of business I worked at for almost three years, I didn’t even get a chance to defend myself. There was only one side to the story. It didn’t show anything that led up to what was going on,” Mr. Bauer said. “I will admit that I might have used a poor choice of words, but it was not racially motivated in any way, shape or form. I would have said it if the kids were white, Asian or Latino.”
He also suggested that it was his choice of words, not his actions that led to his dismissal and that the company told him as much over the phone.
“That’s the only thing that I would say that I crossed the line on,” Mr. Bauer said. “But they were acting like animals…It was not racially motivated. It was that they were acting inappropriately. We had given them several warnings. They were causing a disruption. We were trying to get them out of the building”
“They were saying because of the outcry on Facebook the perception now is that and all the comments they were getting about me that it’s obviously being construed. They’re obviously going with what the public is saying. They want to appease the public. That’s their base, their customers,” Mr. Bauer said.
“They just said they’ve gotten too much flak on Facebook from the community, and it was just a poor choice of words. I asked them if I had called them ‘idiots’ would that have been better? And they actually admitted, ‘Yeah.’ I guess ‘idiots’ is a better term.”
Bauer also whined about his unfair treatment on social media.
“I can’t force people to believe my story,” Mr. Bauer said. “Would I go back and change any of my actions? Maybe I would change the wording. But I would not change anything else I did. I was doing what I had done in other stiuations [sic] before and had never gotten in trouble before. I think the only reason i got terminated is because they were afraid of the repercussions of a social media backlash, and I don’t think that’s fair. I put in good time there.”
According to Pittsburgh CBS Local, the officer filed four charges against Carter: Resisting arrest, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and defiant trespass.
The Daily Mail reports, that the cop in the video has been identified as Officer Christopher Kelly with the North Versailles police department.
So far North Versailles Police Cheif James Matrazzo has yet to comment on his officer’s behavior, however, the District Attorney’s office did issue a statement:
‘”District Attorney Zappala has been on record for some time and has previously advised law enforcement that the act of someone recording the actions of a police officer in a public place is not in and of itself a crime. As such, the effectuation of this particular arrest does raise concerns. Any further comment would not be appropriate at this time,’ said Mike Manko, the DA’s spokesman.”
Many people are defending Kelly’s actions, stating that Carter refused a “lawful order” by not leaving the premises when instructed to do so by the officer. However, the legitimacy of his order was at best questionable, given his unprofessional demeanor while conducting police business. The fact that he chose not to bother extinguishing his cigarette while arresting Carter says it all.
Looking more closely at his actions, the officer risked causing serious injury to Carter should his cigarette had fallen into her hair or set fire to her clothes. He also risked injuring himself should his cigarette had fallen into his shirt or if had accidentally swallowed it while tackling Carter. While the last scenario would have been hilarious, it also probably would have given the police an excuse to charge Carter with assaulting an officer or worse.
This police officer’s attitude is indicative of everything that’s within the American law enforcement community. The brazen “I don’t give a fuck” attitude he displays is an all too common theme in many interactions between minorities and law enforcement.
Kelly should be fired and charged with false imprisonment, kidnapping, and assault. But it’s more likely the city will just settle and Kelly will end up with a slap on the wrist. And even if the city did fire the officer, he’s likely to pop up in another law enforcement agency.
Stay tuned for more updates on this story.