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Jan. 24 2010 - 11:57 pm | 21,822 views | 1 recommendation | 18 comments

Pittsburgh police beat 18-year-old violinist, honor student

Jordan Miles badly bruised head and face after being arrested by undercover Pittsburgh police (Photo: Terez Miles).

Jordan Miles' badly bruised head and face after being arrested by undercover Pittsburgh police. (Photo: Terez Miles)

On the night of January 11, Jordan Miles, an 18-year-old violinist and honor student at Pittsburgh’s prestigious Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) high school, was allegedly beaten by three undercover Pittsburgh Police officers. Miles was reportedly en route to his grandmother’s house at the time, though he never reached his destination:

According to the police criminal complaint, three officers on undercover patrol in Homewood — Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak — spied Mr. Miles at 11 p.m. Jan. 11 by a house on Tioga Street. Seeing a heavy object in his coat, they identified themselves as police and ordered him to stop.

Mr. Miles ran and the officers shot him with a Taser and struck him several times during a struggle. The complaint says with “Miles’s having assaulted two police officers, believing that he was armed, unable to handcuff him, and Miles not following any commands, [Officers Saldutte and Ewing] began to deliver knee strikes to both sides of Miles’s body in an attempt to get his hands behind his back … At this point Ofc. Sisak delivered 2-3 closed fist strikes to Miles’ head/face with still no effect.”

The complaint said the heavy object in his coat turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew. (via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Miles’ account of the event contrasts that of the three officers. In response to why he resisted, Miles stated that the men never identified themselves as police officers and he believed they were trying to abduct him. So he ran and was quickly Tasered. Then, after falling to the ground, he resisted and was kneed in the ribs and struck with multiple closed-fist punches to the head. During the struggle, Miles’ family and attorney also reported that a chunk of his hair was yanked out (see photo) and a tree branch pierced his gums. And according to news reports, Miles has no prior criminal record.

Undercover officers Ewing, Saldutte, and Sisak have been reassigned to uniformed duty pending an investigation. Kerry Lewis, Miles’ attorney, denied that the undercover officers identified themselves. Lewis also stated that he believes the family will be filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the officers.

Given the violent nature of the case, it will be interesting to see how Pittsburgh Police handle the matter.

Update: Police brutality breeds public outrage in the wake of Jordan Miles beating


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  1. collapse expand

    Although frequently suspicious of police accounts when altercations between them and “ordinary citizens” without criminal records occur, I understand better than ever how difficult it can be for police to make split-second decisions.

    My increased understanding comes as a result of Columbia, Missouri, a city of 100,000 population, recently instituting a Citizens Police Review Board. The dual purpose: to increase trust between police and the residents they’re supposed to serve well, and to investigate specific complaints filed against Columbia police. I applied to the elected city council for appointment to the nine-member review board. All nine of us are volunteers, but we did get vetted carefully. (About 60 individuals applied.)

    The nine of us are now undergoing training, some of it by police officers, so we can understand the codes of conduct governing the department. We are also spending time in patrol cars and at a police simulator training center to grasp the reality of the sometimes dangerous job.

    Do I believe the police version from the Pittsburgh incident? I don’t know, but based on the write-up in Mr. Newton’s T/S post, probably not. It doesn’t seem to add up. Additional information might erase my skepticism, or might increase my skepticism.

    Whatever the truth in the Miles mess, I am hoping more and more cities will institute citizen review boards independent of the police hierarchy, so something approximating the truth in such incidents is more likely to emerge.

    • collapse expand

      Always great to hear from you Steve. And Pittsburgh does have a Citizens Police Review Board, who have actually pledged a full investigation into Miles’ beating. And I agree, the officers account doesn’t seem to add up. In this situation, it’s very easy to place 100% blame on the officers, when perhaps there is an angle none of us are seeing. But as of right now, it’s hard to see just cause behind the officers’ actions.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    While its certainly too premature to admonish the officers or grant clemency to Mr. Miles its never too early to speculate. This touches on two subjects I am pretty passionate about; (1) racism in the Burgh and (2) the minimal requirements to become an officer of the law. While not having a prior is indicative of nothing further than just that, especially at a young age, it can still serve as a sort of moral barometer…or perhaps criminal savvy. But 3 undercover officers startling, laying chase and assaulting an innocent victim is far more plausible, in my opinion, than a rather unassuming young guy assaulting two officers without provocation. I am an expert on this subject because (a) I used to play cello, (b) my grandmother used to teach at CAPA and (c) because I am from Pittsburgh – case closed

  3. collapse expand

    Pittsburgh Police brutality cases are handled by (drum roll) … Pittsburgh police. There are a lot of good people in blue in Pittsburgh, but far too many cowboys.. It’s a matter of record. I am a Pitt graduate. I have seen the bad cops in action. There is not enough information here for a reader to pass judgment. But it is clearly well within the the range off possibilities that these heaters screwed up big time. As antironical stated, it’s not only possible by more plausible. By now these cops are all lawyered up, and will walk, regardless of what really happened. Miles has no witnesses. An honors musician!! This is the type of thing that absolutely infuriates people (rightfully so).

  4. collapse expand

    Indeed, it’s premature to assume too much on either side of this incident. However, given the history of police brutality in and around Pittsburgh, it makes this situation that much more sensitive. And in the Miles’ case in particular, the visual evidence of potential abuse (i.e. the swelling and bruises on Miles’ face), is hard to deny.

  5. collapse expand

    What exactly was the charge, Carrying a concealed softdrink? Look at his face. What conclusions is it too early to jump to?

  6. collapse expand

    Isn’t this just a true state of the decadency of our law enforcement agencies? I do suspect hidden intents of racisim – just because the “suspect” is a black young man out late at night (“criminally” purchasing a bottle a mountain dew apparently) makes him “suspicious” of criminal intent. Let me pose a question to the cops involved – would you chase after a preppy looking white male that late at night? No. Thank you, case closed.

  7. collapse expand

    I fully believe that the undercover agents did NOT identify themselves. This has happened in our town here in Washington state. An undercover officer arrested a teenager a few years ago without his badge out. The kid ran, was tackled, and spent months in a back brace. He swore up and down the officer didn’t identify, and lookers on validated. Nothing came of it.

    This is something that seems to happen more than people realize. Currently, I am working on a criminal justice degree specializing in criminal psychology with a computer forensics bachelors. The more I read, the more I see that this is not a rare occurrence. What is rare (nonexistent) is that a police faction will admit fault.

    My gut tells me when taking into consideration all the facts given (GIVEN, mind you), that an honor student chased was not given enough notice his pursuers were cops. Honor students do not run from the cops. They just don’t.

    This is a shame, because this kid will now look at the cops with an even more skeptical eye. I feel badly for him.

    Four years ago, when my son’s friend was injured, I taught him to do a few things when chased by someone who said he or she was a cop:

    1.) Enter the closest business and demand that the cops are called because someone with a gun is chasing you with no badge.

    2.) Scream as you yell that the person behind you has no badge.

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    About Me

    I am a writer, editor, and blogger who lives and works in the once-decaying heart of America's Rust Belt (i.e. Pittsburgh, PA). My work focuses on subculture, crime, mental health, race, class, and creativity.

    My writing appears in Spin, Good, XLR8R, Next American City, RaceWire, and Swindle, among other print and online publications. I have reported on the decline of sampling in hip-hop; interviewed artists and musicians who survived Cambodia’s killing fields; investigated the struggles of U.S. military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; and shadowed graffiti writers, coaxing candid confessions about their obsession with illegal art.

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