PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It was a meeting about how to improve community relations with police, but the opposite happened when a Pittsburgh school teacher had an encounter with an officer.
Part of the chaos that ensued on Kelly Street Wednesday night outside the Community Empowerment Association offices was captured on cell phone video.
There was a meeting inside of community activists and leaders on improving police-community relationships when 38-year-old Dennis Henderson of the North Side ended up in custody after officers say he was disorderly and resisted arrest.
“At this time, I seen a police car speeding and I’m thinking that he is in pursuit of somebody,” said Henderson.
But it was that move that started the chain events that would follow.
“I was just like shocked at that, like wow, and that’s when he did a U-turn when he heard me say wow. He came back down and he stepped out,” said Henderson.
The criminal complaint says Henderson began yelling at the officer.
“He just pulled over and said, ‘Is there a problem?’” said Henderson. “And I just said, ‘That was unnecessary what you just did. Can I get your name and your badge number?’”
From there, it appears things escalated. The officer called for back-up as people from the meeting and the nearby YMCA filed outside.
“It was threatening to us, 15 police cars, four dogs, hands on the mace, hands on the guns,” said Rashad Byrdsong, of the Community Empowerment Association. “We were the ones in fear of our life, not them.”
- Listen to Byrdsong on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA:
Henderson was arrested and spent the night in jail, but the tensions raised by the arrest sparked an impromptu protest at Zone 5 Wednesday night, and a promise of a meeting between community leaders and police to talk about police-community relations.
It’s the reason for the original meeting in the first place.
“There’s two sides to the story and we need to let the system play itself out,” said Mike Huss, the city’s director of public safety. “And in the meantime, I think the reverend along with many of the community leaders out here want to try and word together to try to improve those relations.”