Mon Apr 11 02:12pm EDT
Warning: This video contains some straight-up violence and can be difficult to watch.
By now, many of you might have seen this viral video that shows Pittsburgh police officers tasing a Pittsburgh Pirates fan and repeatedly hitting him with billy clubs at PNC Park on Saturday night. It's a fascinating clip and not only because the man is carrying a cooler bag and wearing a 1992 Dream Team-era American flag jacket (causing the crowd to chant "U-S-A! U-S-A!" as the police go to work on him).
Our attention was drawn to the mystique and the unknown: Who was this man? What happened immediately before the camera turned on? What happened between the pregame photos he took with a female companion (via Hardball Talk) and his Charles Oakley-elbowing of a regular PNC Park security guard? Once he was on the ground and subdued, why did Pittsburgh cops resort to a form of control normally reserved for teenaged field invaders across the state in Philadelphia?
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review chased down the police report on Monday morning, giving us some answers to the questions above:
Scott J. Ashley, 41, of Friendship was arrested at Saturday's Pirates game and charged with four misdemeanors, including public drunkenness and resisting arrest.
The video shows two officers taking at least six swings at a man meeting Ashley's description, first Tasering him to little effect before clubbing him in the neck, head, side and legs before he is eventually cuffed on the concourse floor.
"We both feared for our safety," city detective Francis Rende wrote in a criminal complaint filed (on Sunday).
Watching the video, it's not hard to see why the one officer came in with his billy club or Taser. Ashley lunges and hits that security guard as he comes down the staircase and it looks like the situation could devolve into Ashley going wolvie-berzerk style on others.
But the repeated billy clubbing after Ashley gets separated from the other fans and doesn't fight back? Well, that's the sort of thing that will force your police chief to get involved.
"The Bureau of Police recognizes that police officers, in the performance of their duties, will encounter situations where it is necessary to use force in order to effect arrest or otherwise protect the public welfare or as a means of protecting themselves," (Pittsburgh police chief Nate) Harper wrote in a statement. "Officers shall only use a level of force that the officers might reasonably believe is necessary. Each use of force is documented and reviewed by each officer's supervisor and members in their chain of command."
Since the video is quickly making its way around the Internet — it's at 102,000 views and counting as of this posting — it's likely to renew a debate on excessive police force.
Do you think the officers handled this situation correctly?