PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It was a Saturday night at a bar in Oakland. Surveillance video, obtained by KDKA, shows a couple of patrons getting the bum’s rush. Typical enough, but what happened next would cost Michael Rosfeld his job as a University of Pittsburgh Police officer.
“The videotape showed exactly what my clients said, which is they did nothing wrong whatsoever, they should not have been charged with anything, and they now have a criminal record based upon this event,” attorney Rob Peirce said.
Peirce represents Timothy Riley and Jacob Schilling, two of the young men ejected that night who have filed suit, accusing Rosfeld of excessive force and false arrest. Rosfeld’s attorney says the tape shows otherwise.
“What we have, and I’m supposing that this was not available to plaintiffs at the time, was, obviously, video that contradicts every allegation in that lawsuit as it relates to Michael Rosfeld,” said Tim Urich, Rosfeld’s attorney.
You may be able to draw your own conclusions from the video.
Bar owner Paul Welshonse told police Riley and Schilling were trying to fight with patrons in the backroom, and in the video can be seen escorting the two out of the front bar. They’re followed by Daniel Humphrey, who will later be arrested with them.
The exterior shows all three being shoved out into the street, along a fourth man, who kicks and shatters the door and then runs off — with Welshonse running after him.
Riley, Schilling and Humphrey then tussle with bouncer Raise Cook, and Welshonse returns, mixing it up with the three outside the bar. But as the video progresses, we see that for the next several minutes, the three do not leave and continue to bang on the door.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “If they’re asked to leave, why don’t they just leave?”
Peirce: “I think all parties wish this night wouldn’t have taken place.”
Sheehan: “Are they breaking the law here?”
Urich: “This would sustain a charge, at least a prima facie charge, of defiant trespass.”
Pitt Police Officer Josh McGuinness is first to arrive on the scene, and after speaking briefly with Welshonse, chases down one of the suspects who tries to flee, and begins to line them up against the wall.
It’s about two minutes later that the video first shows Rosfeld coming down the sidewalk to the scene. He immediately handcuffs Schilling on the ground.
Sheehan: “He stands him up…”
Urich: “He stands him up and that’s the extend of his contact with Mr. Schilling.”
Rosfeld holds Schilling in place and has no physical contact with anyone else, but the lawsuit accuses him of resorting “to physical contact and/or violence,” and not using the “force continuum.” It also says he throws both Schilling and Riley up against the wall, which is not seen on the video.
According to an affidavit he filed later that night, Rosfeld writes that after taking statements from the bar management and viewing the video, he determined that Schilling, Riley and Humphrey fought with the bouncer, refused to leave and were drunk, charging them with assault, defiant trespass and public intoxication.
Urich calls it a clean arrest.
“To me, what was shown in that video certainly substantiates at least the affidavit of arrest for the three defendants in this case,” Urich said.
But Peirce disagrees, saying Rosfeld never looked at the video and arrested his clients solely on the word of the bar owner Welshonse, who is also named in their suit.
At one point, the video shows Rosfeld going into the bar, Urich says to view the surveillance. But Peirce says Rosfeld returns to the street just one minute and 40 second later, which is not enough time to review the video.
Peirce also notes that the video we obtained does not show what happened in the backroom and maintains that his clients did nothing to merit being kicked out, and that Rosfeld wrongly arrested them, making them spend the night in jail.
“He did not have the video proof like he indicated, and that is why, we believe, the district attorney dropped all the charges, because what Officer Rosfeld said under oath is not true,” Peirce said.
Later that night, Rosfeld was suspended from the Pitt Police, and at the preliminary hearing, the DA did drop the charges, recently issuing a statement saying there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. Rosfeld resigned under pressure a month later, but his attorney says he was wrongfully forced out and that the incident has unfairly tarnished him as having a history of being a rogue cop.
Sheehan: “He was never accused at Pitt of begin over aggressive?”
Urich: “To the best of my knowledge, and his knowledge, no.”
Sheehan: “Never falsified evidence.”