Pgh NAACP slams ‘lack of transparency’ in probe of Black man who died in police custody

Jim Rogers died Oct. 14 after being tasered by a police officer. Activists want answers — and accountability

By: - November 22, 2021 11:06 am

A memorial to Jim Rogers on a bench in Friendship Park in Bloomfield (Pittsburgh City Paper photo).

By Ryan Deto

PITTSBURGH — Jim Rogers died Oct. 14 in a Pittsburgh hospital while still under police detainment for a medical emergency. A day earlier, Rogers was tasered by Pittsburgh police after the police responded to a 911 call and reports that Rogers had stolen a bike in Bloomfield.

According to WPXI-TV, the arrest occurred around 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 13 after Rogers allegedly took a bike that was left in someone’s yard on Harriet Street in Bloomfield. Neighbors told WPXI that Rogers, a Black man believed to be homeless, took the bike for a ride before returning it. The bike was for sale for $50, and the woman who owns the bike says she wanted to get rid of it, and told WPXI the man could have had it for free.

Rogers’ death has led to multiple rallies and protests, demanding answers to how exactly Rogers died, and for accountability if the police action led to his death. But more than five weeks have now passed, and more detailed information has yet to be released.

Now, the Pittsburgh chapter of the NAACP is joining the chorus demanding answers and wondering why the public isn’t being more apprised of what is happening with the investigation into Rogers’ death.

In a letter sent to the office of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh NAACP branch president Johnnie L. Miott wrote that the community has been patient in waiting for more information since Rogers’ death more than five weeks ago, but that he has become frustrated over the lack of transparency of the investigation.

“This continued lack of transparency and slow investigation into this horrendous matter will not only continue to fuel the public distrust in the institutions, whose responsibility it is to serve and protect its communities equitably,” wrote Miott. “We are formally requesting copies of all documentation related to the matter of Jim Rogers.”

In a statement sent to Pittsburgh City Paper, Peduto spokesperson Molly Onufer replied: “As required by policy, the City immediately turned this investigation over to Allegheny County Police in order to have a totally independent, third-party investigation.”

Allegheny County Police Superintendent Chris Kearns told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Nov. 18 that the Allegheny County Police office does not release the names of involved officers in critical incident investigations and that is up to the involved agency. In this instance, that is the Pittsburgh Police Department.

“There are no plans to release any names at this time. Public Safety is allowing the County to complete its investigation as our own internal review takes place simultaneously,” Pittsburgh Police spokesperson Cara Cruz told the Post-Gazette on Nov. 18.

According to Cyril Wecht, the well-known former Allegheny County coroner, an autopsy and toxicology report for a death like Rogers’ wouldn’t take more than two weeks, and the police are likely waiting for information from police reports and investigative reports. But even he acknowledged in the P-G that those usually don’t take months to complete.

Ryan Deto is news editor of Pittsburgh City Paper, where this story first appeared. Pittsburgh City Paper retains rights to this story, and it may not be republished elsewhere without permission of Pittsburgh City Paper.

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