Wisconsin BLM activist to be extradited to Pa. for Bedford shooting; Pittsburgh attorney to represent him

·3 min read

Jun. 11—A Wisconsin civil rights activist, accused of exchanging gunfire with a Schellsburg man during a Black Lives Matter march through Bedford County last summer, has retained a Pittsburgh attorney to represent him, authorities said.

Orsino Thurman, 37, of Milwaukee, retained attorney Robert Disney, according to the Central Court manager in Bedford.

State police in Bedford charged Thurman on May 7 with aggravated assault and illegally possessing a firearm, which are both felonies. He also was charged with two counts each of simple assault and reckless endangerment, which are misdemeanors, and two summary charges.

Thurman has not yet been arraigned.

Disney did not responded to phone messages left by The Tribune-Democrat at his Pittsburgh office, or to a text message.

Bedford County District Attorney Lesley Childers-Potts said in an email interview that the Pennsylvania State Police requested an arrest warrant for Thurman.

She said that while Terry Myers — also facing charges from the Aug. 24 incident — scheduled an arraignment, Thurman did not.

"Although Mr. Thurman told state police that he would also turn himself in, he did not make those arrangements," Childers-Potts said, "and approximately two weeks after the charges were filed, PSP requested an arrest warrant for Mr. Thurman.

"Since that date, State Police has attempted multiple times to contact Mr. Thurman and provide him the opportunity to be arraigned by appointment, however, as of (Friday's) date, Mr. Thurman still has not turned himself in."

Thurman will be extradited to Pennsylvania when he is located, she said.

Thurman was one of 19 witnesses subpoenaed to testify on Wednesday against Myers, 51, who is accused of shooting Thurman — who failed to show for a hearing at the Bedford County courthouse.

Judge H. Cyril Bingham dismissed a felony charge of aggravated assault and misdemeanor charges of simple assault against Myers, who will stand trial on less serious charges of harassment and seven counts of reckless endangerment.

"The preliminary hearing process is not supposed to be a rubber stamp of every criminal complaint," Childers-Potts said. "Because some of the subpoenaed witnesses and victims did not appear, the Commonwealth was unable to meet its burden for some charges, which is why those charges were dismissed."

Thurman was part of a group of 30 activists who were traveling on foot and in vehicles from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C., for the March to Washington 2020 gathering on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. A caravan of about 12 vehicles stopped on the Myers property at 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 24.

Myers is accused of firing a 12-gauge shotgun at Thurman, who was hit with birdshot in the face and body. Thurman was treated at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown and then released.

Thurman allegedly fired a pistol at Terry and his father Elmer Myers. Neither was injured.

Troopers said they found the pistol at the scene which had Thurman's DNA. Trooper Adam Zinn testified at Wednesday's preliminary hearing that it was Thurman who fired at the Myers after Terry Myers fired two warning shots.

Myers then fired a third time, striking Thurman.

"It's unequivocal today that the first shot fired at anyone during the incident that evening was fired by Mr. Thurman," Myers' attorney Matt Zatko, of Somerset said after Wednesday's hearing.

Johnstown NAACP President Alan Cashaw expressed disapointment that the aggravated assault charge against Myers was dismissed.

"Orsino Thurman was shot that night. That evidence doesn't go away," Cashaw said. "To me ... this sends a message that violence is OK."