Police investigators clear officer who pulled gun on woman during traffic stop
The officer accused of pulling his gun on a Hill District woman during a traffic stop in Shadyside last August has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Pittsburgh Police Bureau's Office of Municipal Investigations.
Pamela Lawton was slated for trial on charges of disorderly conduct Aug. 7 but the trial was delayed again, this time by her attorney, so he could study the OMI report clearing officer Eric Tatusko. That has angered many activists who have been waiting for this matter to come to what they call a just conclusion.
"It's hypocrisy," says Minister Jasiri X of Muhammed Mosque No. 22 in Wilkinsburg, an advocate of Lawton's. "If Latinos and African-Americans are being harassed at the same time this is the 'Most Livable City,' that's hypocrisy."
He says the timing of the release of OMI's information was not coincidental, and that the trial is being dragged out needlessly. "If Tatusko is the one that pulled the gun out and OMI dropped charges on him, what is the point of charging Ms. Lawton?"
Mike Manko, spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney's office says the office subpoenaed the OMI report on July 20 and the information came back the 31st. It was "relatively voluminous--that was the reason for the delay," he adds. When asked about comments regarding the suspicious timing of the report, Manko replied: "I'm not going to comment on that."
Officer Tatusko stopped Pamela Lawton in Shadyside nearly a year ago for expired inspection stickers on her minivan. The situation escalated to the point of Tatusko drawing his gun on Lawton from the passenger side of the van, where Lawton's 7-year-old daughter was sitting. Lawton filed complaints with two city bodies, the Citizen Police Review Board and the Office of Municipal Investigation, saying Tatusko terrified her and her children.
When asked for details of the OMI report, Kathy Kraus of OMI said, "Our investigations are confidential and I can't provide any information about them."
Lawton's most recent trial date, Aug. 7, ended in a postponement at the request of her attorney, Paul Boas. The day before the trial, Boas said, the commonwealth notified him of 150 pages of documents from OMI's findings. "I didn't feel we could possibly go forward," Boas said.
As at her past three postponed trials, a cadre of activists came to support Lawton and demand that all charges against her be dropped, saying the case--a white cop pulling a gun on a black motorist in Shadyside ending in the motorist facing charges--smacks of racism.
Activist Paradise Gray of OneHOOD, who has also accompanied Lawton to her trials and arraignment, echoed X's sentiments. He also called out religious groups in the city for not taking up Lawton's cause, other than Jasiri X and the Rev. Cornell Jones, who has also been among the stalwarts standing with Lawton. "Tatusko, he's the one walking around with a gun. She's being called for disorderly conduct for calling on Jesus."
Tim Stevens of the Black Political Empowerment Project called on Lawton's assembled supporters not to allow their interest and support to wane. "We cannot allow that to happen," he said.
At Lawton's request, the CRPB has suspended its investigation into the incident, and will resume it after her trial is over.
The trial has been rescheduled for Sept. 20, more than a year after the initial incident occurred.