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NAACP calls for federal probe into police shooting of unarmed Black man in Pittsburgh

The NAACP is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the death of Jim Rogers, a 54-year-old Black man who died in an October 2021 incident with a Pittsburgh police officer.

Rogers died the day after police officer Keith Edmonds repeatedly shocked him with a taser.

“Jim Rogers deserved better, and Black America deserves better,” Janette McCarthy Wallace, general counsel of the NAACP, said in a statement.

“But the sad reality is, our communities continue to endure pain and suffering at the hands of those tasked with serving and protecting us. We have seen the photographs, watched the videos, and heard the stories,” she added. “One thing remains clear – progress cannot exist without accountability.”

The encounter began when Edmonds responded to a report of a stolen bicycle. When he arrived on scene, he encountered Rogers.

Body camera footage released in January shows Rogers — who appears disoriented — putting his hands in the air when he sees Edmonds approaching

Edmonds demands to know if Rogers stole the bike. Rogers denies stealing anything, saying he believed the bike was being given away.

Rogers then adds, “I have no weapons.”

Edmonds asks Rogers for his wallet before removing Rogers’s wallet from his pocket, at which point Rogers attempts to grab the wallet back.

Edmonds immediately puts Rogers on the ground and yells, “What did I say? What did I say? Get on the ground. What did I say?”

“Okay, sir. Okay, I’m listening to you,” Rogers begins repeating. “I’m listening to you. I’m listening to you, sir.”

Edmonds then threatens Rogers with his Taser, telling him to put his hands behind his back or he’ll be tased.

“Okay, I’m so sorry,” Rogers responds. “I didn’t do anything.”

Edmonds then places his Taser directly against Rogers’s back and shocks him. When Roger’s attempts to run away less than 30 seconds later, Edmonds shocks him again. Rogers can be seen falling back onto the grass.

When Rogers tries to run once more, Edmonds shocks him again. Rogers then falls into the street and begins to mumble incomprehensibly.

A neighbor watching the encounter asks the officer to give Rogers a moment to “collect himself,” but Edmonds tells the neighbor to “back off.”

Altogether, Edmonds delivered at least 10 electrical bursts within three minutes and 15 seconds.

When Rogers is placed in the back of a police car, video shows he is clearly struggling to breathe. For 17 minutes, Rogers repeatedly strikes his head against the cage behind. At multiple points, it sounds like Rogers is screaming in pain.

However, officers on the scene tell Rogers to relax and that medics were on the way, according to the video.

Though medics never arrived, the police did not render any aid to Rogers. As Rogers continued calling for help, an officer told him that they were going to roll the window up if he “keeps yelling and screaming for no reason.”

Rogers was eventually transported to UPMC Mercy Hospital, despite a different hospital being only a few blocks nearby.

Rogers died the following day. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office said that Rogers died from a lack of oxygen to the brain, though his death was ruled accidental.

Five officers fired after Rogers’ death, including Edmonds, have since returned to the force. One officer faces arbitration while the fifth officer retired.

In the letter to Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights at the DOJ, the NAACP called the incident “deeply troubling.”

“Although Mr. Rogers was unarmed and did not appear to pose a threat, Officer Edmond tased Mr. Rogers ten times,” the letter states. “Despite Mr. Rogers’ repeated cries for help, the police failed to provide adequate medical assistance, by not promptly transporting Mr. Rogers to the nearest hospital. Moreover, the local prosecutor has not filed criminal charges against the officers. According to news reports, the city reinstated three of the four officers involved. Without federal intervention, the police officers will not be held accountable for their actions.”

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. convened a grand jury investigation into Rogers’ death but no charges were ever filed. However, the city settled a federal lawsuit with Rogers’ estate for $8 million last year.

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