A video showing a Pittsburgh law enforcement officer punching a woman at a gay pride event on Sunday has prompted an internal city review and the suspension of the officer involved, local officials said Monday.
“I just want to reassure the people that this is a new day, we won’t look the other way when incidents like this happen,” Mayor William Peduto said at a press conference, according to a transcript released by the city. “And we want to assure everybody — and that includes both the public and the police — that we want fairness. And we will work diligently to make sure that justice is not delayed and that we will be able to proceed over the next month to find out exactly what happened, and to take the proper action.”
Stephen Bucar, the city’s acting Public Safety Director, said that the matter had been referred to the Office of Municipal Investigation. The move was announced just one day after a short video of the incident at the day-long PrideFest was uploaded to Facebook by a person who said they were standing close by went it happened.
A local news report identified the woman in the video as Ariel Lawther, 19.
According to WTAE, Lawther was arrested and will face charges of aggravated assault, resisting arrest, simple assault, and disorderly conduct. The criminal complaint acquired by the news channel indicated that the officer saw Lawther hitting a man, identified as Eric Moure. The officer wrote that when he stepped in to break up the fight, Lawther began “to push and strike me in the chest with her hands and groin area with her legs.” Following the ensuing crush and confusion, the officer wrote, “to diffuse the situation quickly before I was attacked by the crowd once more, I punched Lawther in the left abdomen several times to distract her enough so I could handcuff her.” Once they were away from the crowd, Lawther allegedly said, “I’m sorry I did not see you were a cop, I am sorry I hit you.”
At his press conference, Peduto said that the incident began after comments “some of the folks who had gathered to oppose the parade, and at that point escalated.” He said officials would be looking for additional video of the incident, and that the officer involved “has been taken off the street and will remain off the street for the next 30 days.”
“He has been suspended from any other outside duties while the investigation continues,” Peduto said.
Asked if the officer’s account of the incident would warrant the force shown in the video, Peduto deferred to the investigation.
“What I saw in the video was a clip,” Peduto said. “Like I said earlier I want to remain fair both to the officers and to the public.”
Watch the video: