There’s frustration and concern in the wake of a historic $8 million payout by the city of Pittsburgh to the family of a man who died after being tased by a Pittsburgh police officer.
Channel 11 Chief Investigator Rick Earle spoke with Jim Rogers’ uncle, who had very strong words about the settlement.
He’s not involved in the settlement and told Earle he wanted nothing to do with it.
He called it “hush money” and said there’s been no justice for his nephew.
He questioned why the city would pay all that money when the officers have never been charged criminally.
“$8 million and no justice for Jim Rogers. It’s not justice for my nephew at all. You paid $8 million and you’re not prosecuting nobody. Nobody’s accountable for my nephew’s death. What is going on here? To me it feels like hush money,” Billy Joe Jordan said.
Rogers was tased ten times by an officer investigating a report of a stolen bicycle in Bloomfield in October 2021.
He went into cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and died the next day.
The medical examiner ruled his death as accidental.
Four officers were fired for excessive force and failing to get medical attention for Rogers.
A county grand jury heard testimony in the case but no officers were ever criminally charged.
But the city agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit with Rogers’ brother and daughter for $8 million.
Jordan didn’t know about his nephew’s daughter.
“No, we didn’t find out about a daughter until now. I don’t know. We didn’t find out about his daughter until this happened,” Jordan said.
On the day City Council approved the payment, some members of the public questioned the settlement, including a community activist and a retired Pittsburgh Police officer who ran for Mayor against Ed Gainey.
“How are we paying $8 million for an accidental death and we don’t know what that accident was? We don’t know how that accident happened or where it happened,” Tony Moreno said.
Despite the objections, the council unanimously approved the settlement. At least one member said before the vote that the city attorney addressed all of their concerns about the agreement.
Earle spoke with Councilman Dan Lavelle after the vote, asking if there was any concern about officers not being held accountable.
“I can’t go into detail but I do know officers are being looked at,” Lavelle said.
Lavelle would not identify the agency that’s still looking at the officers.
Earle also spoke with council president Theresa Kail-Smith, questioning if the council should have waited to pay out the settlement.
“We talked to our solicitor for advice and we felt that this was the best settlement that they could reach at this time,” Kail-Smith said.
Earle also spoke with Mayor Ed Gainey about the settlement.
He said the city has done its job, firing the officers and settling the wrongful death lawsuit, but he said any criminal charges are not up to him.
“The rest of that issue is in the DA’s office. He can make a ruling as he sees fit. We did our job and the sitting DA, he needs to do what he needs to do,” Gainey said.
Jordan said Rogers had battled drug addiction for years and would steal to support his habit.
“He got into drugs. He started going in and out of jail, in and out of prison, because of drugs,” Jordan said.
But Jordan said Rogers, who was a gifted artist, was never aggressive.
“He was a very kind-hearted person. He’s not a violent person. He would not fight no cops or police at all. Jim don’t give nobody no problems. He’s not the type,” Jordan said.
Jordan said he was shocked when he saw the video of the officer repeatedly tasing his nephew. But, he said what’s even more frustrating is that one of the fired officers has already gotten his job back and the others are attempting to get reinstated as well.
Earle asked Mayor Gainey about the officer who has returned to work. Earle learned that the officer settled with the city to return to the force with back pay, even before going to arbitration.
Earle asked the Mayor why the city settled with the officer.
“We knew where it was going. We knew where it was going,” said Gainey, who indicated that the city would have likely lost in arbitration.
“There’s no way if you give $8 million out. I have a problem with the city giving $8 million out and nobody is being charged and this guy, maybe the possibility of him getting his job back,” Jordan said.
Jordan said both he and Rogers’ mother didn’t want anything to do with the lawsuit.
The three other fired officers are still waiting for their arbitration hearings.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala had indicated at one point that the feds were looking at the officers.
It’s unclear if that’s still the case, but again it’s been two years and no charges from any agency.
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