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NAACP is asking the federal government to investigate the death of Jim Rogers

The NAACP is calling for a federal investigation into the 2021 death of an unarmed Black man following an encounter with a Pittsburgh police officer who repeatedly shocked him with a Taser.

The NAACP wants a federal probe into the 2021 death of a Black man who was not armed. He died after a confrontation with a Pittsburgh police officer who used a Taser on him multiple times.

The national civil rights organization has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to thoroughly investigate Jim Rogers' death to ensure accountability and justice.

Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP, wrote a letter to Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights in Washington, D.C., expressing deep concern about the incident and stating that without federal intervention, the police officers will not be held accountable for their actions.

The justice department acknowledged receiving the letter but declined to provide further comment.

A 54-year-old homeless man, Jim Rogers, died on October 14, 2021, a day after a physical altercation with Keith Edmonds, a Pittsburgh police officer.

Edmonds, who is also Black, encountered Rogers while responding to a report of a stolen bike in Bloomfield. The encounter turned violent, with Edmonds repeatedly using the Taser on Rogers when he did not comply with commands.

According to an internal police report, after the police took Rogers into custody, they ignored his requests for medical assistance. The city's inquiry criticized how the officers and police supervisors handled the situation, concluding that Rogers did not pose a threat and was given conflicting commands.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson wrote that Mr. Rogers repeatedly informed the police that he was having difficulty breathing, but they continued chatting amongst themselves. The police instructed Rogers to relax despite his struggles to breathe.

The city settled a lawsuit with Rogers' family for $8 million. Edmonds was initially fired but later reinstated with back pay after arbitration. The mayor's office stated that Officer Edmonds admitted to violating the city's policies, yet the reinstatement decision did not consider this admission sufficient for disciplinary action..

The mayor's office said it plans to appeal the arbitrator's decision regarding Edmonds' reinstatement.

Maria Montano, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ed Gainey, said that Edmonds' reinstatement will be put on hold until the city exhausts its appeals.

The county district attorney mentioned that Edmonds' actions were 'wrong' but did not constitute homicide despite repeatedly using the Taser on Rogers.

According to a 15-page executive summary of an internal review, Edmonds administered at least 10 electrical bursts on Rogers within three minutes and 15 seconds.

The NAACP advocated for federal intervention in Washington, D.C. at the request of its Pittsburgh chapter president, Daylon Davis.

Davis shared a video of Rogers' arrest with the NAACP.

The video was publicly released on January 29 by attorney Todd Hollis, who represented Rogers' family in the civil lawsuit. “Simply from them watching that video, they had very serious worries,” Davis told TribLive on Wednesday. “This isn’t about Keith Edmonds, the African-American. This is about Keith Edmonds, the police officer … This was an misuse of power. This was an misuse of basic humanity.” Davis also stated Edmonds’ reinstatement “establishes a risky example.”

“Officer Keith Edmonds admitted he violated city policy,” Davis said. “If you have an admission of guilt, I’m sorry, I don’t think you should get your job back — and neither does the [NAACP] national office.”

Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh who also served as a deputy assistant attorney general, said the NAACP request is unusual.

Any potential federal charges, he said, would fall under civil rights violations, including use of unreasonable force, like in the Rodney King case in California.

King, a Black man, was brutally beaten in 1991 by a group of Los Angeles police officers, whose acquittal sparked riots in the city. Litman worked on the King case while he was with the justice department.

The standard, Litman said, is that “it’s so serious the cop had to know it was unreasonable. It’s knowing use of unreasonable force.”

Any charges would likely be handled through a joint prosecution between the U.S. Attorney’s office in Pittsburgh and the Department of Justice Civil Rights division, Litman said.

A charging decision, he said, will likely take a while.

“Nobody should expect it to be soon,” Litman said.

Of the nine officers on scene that the internal police bureau report blamed for not properly performing their jobs, two retired, four were fired but reinstated, including Edmonds, and three others were suspended, according to the police union president. One of the suspensions remains in arbitration.

Robert Swartzwelder, the union leader, previously called the executive summary of the Critical Incident Review Board “a hit piece.”

The NAACP is calling for a federal investigation into the 2021 death of an unarmed Black man following an encounter with a Pittsburgh police officer who repeatedly shocked him with a Taser.

Robert Swartzwelder, the union leader, previously called the executive summary of the Critical Incident Review Board “a hit piece.”

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