PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The civil re-trial continues for three Pittsburgh Police officers who are accused of using excessive force against a former CAPA student.
Today, Officer Michael Saldutte, the third of the three officers named in the trial was on the stand. He quickly became involved in a combative verbal exchange with Miles’ attorney, Joel Sansone.
In testimony and questioning that often overlap each other, he was peppered with objections from defense lawyers.
Saldutte testified that he felt a hard object in Miles pocket during the struggle. When he saw Miles reach toward his waistband Saldutte yelled, “gun.”
Saldutte testified he pulled a Mountain Dew bottle out of Miles pocket, but did not keep the bottle.
“Nobody but you saw you pull that bottle out of his pocket did they?” asked Sansone.
“I couldn’t tell you,” Saldutte said.
Also, Sansone pointed out that Saldutte is a martial arts instructor at a local gym, which is owned by a fellow police officer.
Sansone pointed out Saldutte’s athletic background during questioning about why it took three officers to subdue Miles.
In another contentious exchange, Sansone asked Saldutte, “Didn’t you tell the FBI that you liked the assignment to the 99 undercover car because subjects may not see you coming before it’s too late?”
“I believe that’s taken out of context,” Saldutte said. “But I may have said that.”
Officer Saldutte testified he and his colleagues repeatedly identified themselves when they encountered Jordan Miles, contradicting Miles version.
“I displayed my badge,” testified Saldutte. “As I step out I said, ‘Pittsburgh Police, stop!’ I said it two or three or three or four times.”
Saldutte also testified he found a Mountain Dew bottle on Miles which police thought was a weapon. But Miles lawyer was skeptical.
“Nobody but you saw you pull that bottle out of his pocket did they,” asked Joel Sansone.
“I couldn’t tell you,” Saldutte replied.
And the issue of race was a focus when Sansone asked Saldutte if Miles may have thought white people, other than police, could have been trying to rob him.
Sansone was critical of Saldutte’s answer.
“We do not expect our police officers to beat these children nearly to death because they think they’re drug dealers,” said Sansone during a break in the trial.
“You heard him say what else would white guys be doing in Homewood? I don’t know that white people buy drugs in Homewood. I don’t know that white people sell drugs in Homewood…”
But Saldutte’s lawyer had this answer to Sansone’s concerns:
“I’d say that’s the first time race has ever come up in this trial or during these proceedings and I don’t see it as a racial issue because you have to understand that section of Homewood is almost entirely African American,” says attorney Brian Campbell. “These police officers are policing in an area that’s predominately African American. To me racism is where you might be in a situation where 98 percent of the people are white and police only arrest the 2 percent of people who are black.”
Miles himself is expected on the stand Wednesday.