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Police suspended during probe of beating

Three white Pittsburgh police officers accused of beating a black teenage musician have been suspended with pay during the investigation.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Three white Pittsburgh police officers accused of beating a black teenage musician have been suspended with pay during the investigation.

Mayor Luke Ravensthal said Monday he has assurances that the city’s investigation into the beating of 18-year-old Jordan Miles will be done by the end of the month.

But Ravensthal said he felt it was necessary to suspend the officers to restore confidence in the police department.

Miles plays viola and attends a prestigious Pittsburgh arts school. He says the three plainclothes officers beat him Jan. 12 as he walked to his grandmother’s house.

His family said they plan to file a civil rights lawsuit against the police department. His mother said the case should be a call to action for victims of police brutality and racial profiling.

Pictures taken by Miles' mother, Terez Miles, show the teenager's face covered with red, raw bruises, his right eye swollen shut and a bald spot where he said officers tore dreadlocks from his head. She has said police targeted him because he was a black man walking in a "rough" neighborhood at night.

'Seize this opportunity'
"I do ask that everyone who has been the victim of police brutality or of racial profiling, please seize this opportunity," she said at a news conference Wednesday, flanked by her attorney and members of the Pittsburgh NAACP chapter.

"Don't let Jordan's brutal beating have been in vain, but please use this prime opportunity to fight for change. We cannot afford to let Jordan's horrible experience fade from memory," she added.

The attorney, John Lewis, said he has already drafted a civil rights lawsuit against the police department and will file it once the criminal case has been put to rest.

Jordan Miles has been charged with two counts of aggravated assaulted, one count of loitering at night and one count of escape and resisting arrest. Lewis said the charges against him must be dropped and the officers investigated.

The city and the FBI have begun investigations, and the officers have been reassigned and put back in uniform until the case is resolved.

The city's police union says the three are decorated officers and their account of the event should not be disregarded.

Believed carrying a gun
The criminal complaint says Miles was standing against a building "as if he was trying to avoid being seen." The officers say they saw something heavy in his pocket and believed he was carrying a gun, according to the affidavit. According to the affidavit, the object turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew, though Miles said he didn't have anything in his pocket and rarely drinks Mountain Dew.

The NAACP said at its news conference on Wednesday that it too is investigating the confrontation and has sent the details of the case to the group's national legal department for review. Gayle Moss, president of Pittsburgh's NAACP chapter, said the images of Miles' face after the beating beg the question "why?"

"He had robbed no one, no bank, no establishment. He had not highjack a car or caused anyone any harm," Moss said. "He was simply walking while black."

Students at Miles' school, the Center and Performing Arts High School, marched Tuesday to City Hall, demanding justice for their classmate. Terez Miles and the NAACP called for other peaceful protests.

"Some people have been accusing of us of playing the race card. To them, I ask the obvious question: How many white people have been stopped and interrogated by police just for being white?" Terez Miles asked.

"An assumption was made by three thugs on the night of Jan. 12 — when they saw a black man exit his house ... they assumed that he had to be up to no good. They thought they would be able to justify the beating of another black man. But they were wrong. Every assumption they made about my son was wrong," she said.