UPDATE: (Feb. 4, 2016) Sources say charges will be REFILED against Sgt. Stephen Matakovich. Stay with KDKA and KDKA.com for more.
Previous story below:
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A Heinz Field police officer accused of assaulting a fan while making an arrest in November has been cleared of all charges.
Police say Sgt. Stephen Matakovich was working a uniformed, off-duty secondary employment detail at a WPIAL football championship game at Heinz Field on Nov. 28, when he arrested a man for a number of charges, including public drunkenness and aggravated assault.
According to police, video of the arrest led to a criminal investigation, which led to Matakovich being charged with simple assault and official oppression.
The video shows the officer pushing and punching Gabriel Despree, 19, before putting him in handcuffs.
“The video, it says a lot, but when you have an opportunity to break it down and listen to Sgt. Matakovich, his reasoning it makes total sense. The young man is going in and out of his pockets he was asked to leave his BAC was very high he admitted on the stand today he was very intoxicated,” said defense attorney Blaise Jones.
Despree admitted he was drunk and refused to leave after he was denied admission to the stadium, but insisted he never threatened the officer or tried to push him.
Ultimately. the judge dropped the charges, saying that they felt the fan was the aggressor and that there was not enough evidence to hold charges against Matakovich.
“Sgt. Matakovich has been a proud member of the Pittsburgh Police department for 22 years, we’re just ecstatic,” said Jones.
The courtroom exploded in applause from officers who came to support the sergeant.
However, a Pittsburgh police officer considered an expert in the use of force said he saw no resistance in the video, and called it an unreasonable use of force.
“I don’t think it’s unusual to say Sgt. Matakovich put his safety first, his and those around him,” Jones said.