WTAE—Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts High School students marched down Grant Street Tuesday morning, chanting “Justice For Jordan” in support of a classmate who was severely injured during a police arrest.
Jordan Miles, a violist in his senior year at CAPA, was walking to his grandmother’s house on Tioga Street in Homewood on Jan. 11 when, he says, three plainclothes city police officers beat him severely.
“There’s not a violent bone in Jordan’s body,” said CAPA Principal Melissa Pearlman, who told Channel 4 Action News that 36 children were granted early dismissal Tuesday with permission from their parents. Alumni and others from the community were also in the rally group.
“I do believe there are police who actually care about the people of this city, but when corrupt police are brought to the surface, I believe justice needs to be served,” CAPA senior Damarra Underwood said.
While an internal investigation continues, Police Chief Nate Harper held a brief news conference Tuesday afternoon and said he wouldn’t answer any media questions or discuss specifics of the Miles situation.
“We understand the concern of the family, the community, the school children. However, there is a due process for both Mr. Miles and the arresting officers,” Harper said.
The Pittsburgh police officers involved in the incident said they thought Miles, 18, was armed and that he resisted arrest, but it turned out that Miles did not have a gun. His lawyer said Miles didn’t know the men were police officers and that he is a victim of racial profiling.
Speakers at a meeting of the Citizens Police Review Board on Tuesday night questioned whether Miles was singled out because of the color of his skin.
“How do we expect our community to work alongside the police when they are treating us like nothing better than animals?” said William Anderson, a concerned citizen.
“Three plainclothesmen who look like hoods attack a guy in the middle of the night and he runs. Surprise! Wouldn’t you run if you were attacked by three hoods?” said Errol Miller, a concerned citizen.
The board voted to launch an inquiry into the procedures governing plainclothes police operations.
Pittsburgh City Councilman Doug Shields said he wants to know what justifies the tremendous use of force in this case.
“OK, you grabbed the wrong guy or something like that, but how do you end up on the ground half-beaten, hair pulled out, whatever? How does that happen?” Shields said.
The Citizens Police Review Board will make a recommendation next month whether the case should have a public hearing.
“That will involve a full-blown complete investigation to determine what did happen and make recommendations in February as to whether this case should continue, whether it should go to a public hearing or whether it should be dismissed,” said Elizabeth Pittinger, a member of the Citizens Police Review Board.
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Miles and his mother, Terez, discussed the case during a live interview on CNN.
“I’m curious to know why they took note of my son that night, why they felt the need to do what they did to him,” Terez Miles said on CNN.
Jordan Miles’ lawyer, Kerry [Lewis], was also interviewed and said the FBI will be involved in the ongoing investigation. The FBI’s Pittsburgh spokesman, Jeff Killeen, said the probe is in an early stage that will determine whether there’s “a potential violation of federal civil rights criminal laws” and the need for a more thorough investigation.
During the altercation, Jordan Miles said he ended up in the hospital with facial bruises, swollen eyes and his hair was ripped from his scalp.
Pearlman said she found the pictures to be heart-wrenching and scary, and she felt it was important for her students to have the opportunity to speak out.
“Jordan Miles is a normal high school senior who does not harm anybody. He is trying to get his education and move on to higher education at Penn State,” Underwood said.
Jordan Miles is charged with aggravated assault on the police officers, who have not been charged with any crimes. A preliminary hearing for the suspect has been postponed to Feb. 18 in Municipal Court downtown.
“I trust the truth will come out and I’m praying that justice will prevail,” Terez Miles told Channel 4 Action News.
The officers have been reassigned to uniform duty while the Office of Municipal Investigations looks into the incident. The Black Political Empowerment Planning Council (B-PEP) is asking the City Council to suspend the officers or put them on desk duty until the matter is resolved.
“I cannot remember in my more than 40 years of community activism seeing a picture much worse than that of the severely beaten face of Jordan Miles,” said B-PEP’s Tim Stevens. “I cannot fathom how the Pittsburgh police could in any reasonable way defend the beating, stomping, choking and kicking and hair-pulling of an unarmed, 5-7, 150-pound teenager by three armed police officers.”
WTAE Channel 4 Action News is not identifying the three officers because they have not been charged with any crimes, but Team 4 investigated and found that one of them is facing a lawsuit filed by a prisoner who claims to have been beaten.