PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A federal lawsuit has been filed against Pittsburgh Police in a case once reviewed by the Allegheny County District Attorney, who raised concerns about charges police filed against two Homewood men.
In July of 2013, City of Pittsburgh Police dash cam video captured an incident where two brothers, Will El and Beyshaud El, were suspected of purchasing synthetic marijuana.
It turns out, they did not.
“They didn’t have to be stopped,” said personal injury and civil rights attorney Todd Hollis, who filed the suit. “They weren’t doing anything illegal. They had no marijuana. They sat down and were complying with the officers’ orders. At the time that one of the young men stood up, he said, ‘I’m being harassed.’”
But at the point Will El stood up claiming harassment, the video shows he was put back down by an officer. That caused his brother to react and police then used a Taser.
Both were initially charged with assault against a police officer.
In February of 2014, however, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala reviewed the video, as requested by the Public Safety Department, and he recommended the charges against Will El be dropped.
His lawyer says a police report claiming he balled up his right fist preparing to strike an officer wasn’t true because he had a menthol cigarette in that hand.
Zappala also recommended that Beyshaud El only face summary harassment charges. Both, though, ended up being convicted of disorderly conduct.
Their attorney thinks the prosecutor’s concerns should have been addressed early on.
“How did those charges that should have been dropped become reinstated?” asked Hollis, “And by whose authority and for what reason?”
When asked whether the situation could have been less intense had Will El not stood up, Hollis responded, “It’s a valid question, but you still have a civil right that you can communicate with a police officer and not be choked because he didn’t like that you said.”
The lawsuit claims excessive force and civil rights violations and asks for compensatory and punitive damages. So far, no comment from the Allegheny County District Attorney or the city.