The third and final white Pittsburgh officer to testify in a young black man's civil rights lawsuit on Tuesday issued the strongest denial yet that police wrongly arrested and beat the performing arts student.
"I am not ashamed of anything that happened that night," Officer Richard Ewing testified about Jan. 12, 2010, when then-18-year-old Jordan Miles encountered the officers at about 11 p.m.
"I'm proud of what we do. I'm proud to be a police officer, and I know I didn't do anything that they're suggesting that I did," Ewing said.
Ewing flatly denied Miles' claims that officers stopped him merely for being black in a high-crime area, then beat him after he panicked, ran away and resisted _ elbowing Officer Michael Saldutte's head and kicking Officer David Sisak's knee. Miles, now 20, said he fought because the officers didn't identify themselves and he thought he was being robbed.
Miles also contends that a handful of braids were torn from his head and that after being handcuffed he was choked and told to shut up when he prayed in fear. The officers then hit him in the head with a hard object for good measure, Miles has said.
"Absolutely not. It never happened," Ewing said when asked if those things occurred. "He never prayed at all during that incident. Never."
Instead, Ewing echoed the other officers' claims that Miles appeared to be prowling near a neighbor's home and had a bulge in his coat that made the officers think he had a weapon when he moved to conceal it.
The officers later found only a soda bottle, though Miles denies having even that. His attorneys contend that he was the target of a "jump out" _ a tactic in which officers rush at suspected drug dealers or other suspicious people to get them off their guard _ that went horribly wrong.
Miles said the officers asked if he had money, drugs or a gun. Ewing denied that, saying Saldutte calmly flashed a badge and asked Miles where he lived and why he was "sneaking around."
Earlier Tuesday, Miles' attorney, Timothy O'Brien, asked Sisak whether it made any sense that Miles would reach for his jacket pocket while the officers kneed, punched and tried to handcuff him now that everybody knows Miles didn't have a gun and _ even if the police were correct _ at most would have been reaching for the soda. Sisak didn't answer the question because his attorney objected to it as argumentative, but O'Brien's rhetorical question is expected to be the crux of the closing arguments Miles' attorneys will make Thursday.
While struggling with Miles on the ground, Saldutte testified that his arm brushed against a hard object in Miles' pocket and when Miles tried to move his hand toward his pocket, Saldutte yelled, `Gun!' prompting Sisak to punch Miles in the face.
"I'm scared if he pulls his hand back out, I'm the one in front of him. I'm going to get shot," Sisak testified, explaining why he punched Miles. "I had my hands, I had my gun _ those were my options."
Miles' other attorney, J. Kerrington Lewis, sparred with Ewing and has called the officers' version a "fairy tale."
Lewis asked Ewing whether he agreed that Miles' version was more consistent with the previous testimony of a neighbor who heard someone repeatedly yelling "Help!" that night.
Ewing acknowledged that none of the officers yelled for help but argued that Miles was too busy repeating something else that night to yell for help as he claimed.
"He would have had to stop saying, `I don't want to go to jail,'" Ewing said.