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Author Topic: Officer draws weapon on 7-year-old girl  (Read 1214 times)

Kat Kanning

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Officer draws weapon on 7-year-old girl
« on: September 21, 2006, 02:26 PM NHFT »

Officer allegedly draws weapon on 7-year-old girl

Deborah M. Todd / Pittsburgh Courier | September 21 2006

What was supposed to be a typical drive through a peaceful Shadyside neighborhood, turned into a standoff with a police officer threatening the life of a 7-year old girl, according one local mother.

Pamela Lawton of the Hill District said on Aug. 26, she was on her way to Homewood for a Pee Wee League football game with her two daughters, 7-year old Joshalyn, 8-year old Jasmine, and two other children ages 2 and 3. She said she was driving her green, 1998 Ford Windstar and was approaching the intersection at Kentucky Street and Negley Avenue when a Pittsburgh Police cruiser signaled for her to pull over.

?He was flying up behind me and I stopped immediately because I wanted to stay in view,? said Lawton. ?I felt like there was something wrong?why would he fly up behind me like that? Plus, I had my kids in the car so it kind of scared me.?

What Lawton said happened next was beyond anything her initial fears predicted.

?I said, ?What?s the problem, officer?? and he said ?Get your hands up,?? wrote Lawton in a prepared statement. ?He repeated, pulled out his gun and pointed into the passenger side of the window where my youngest daughter was trying to get her seatbelt off. So, I put my hands up.?

According to Lawton, she and her children spent the next 20 to 30 minutes trying to convince Officer Eric Tatusko to put his weapon down or to at least go to the driver?s side to address the problem with the only adult in the car.

?The children were in the car screaming and crying,? she wrote. ?My hands were still in the air and I was screaming ?Help, someone help!? over and over again.?

Florence Williams, a resident at the Kitley House Senior Center on Kentucky Street, said she didn?t see everything that happened that morning, but she knows she heard the cries for help.

?I happened to hear somebody screaming and I came to my porch,? Williams said. ?I don?t know what the cop was doing because he was on the other side, but she had her arms out the door and she was hollering ?Please, somebody help me.??

During this time, Lawton says Tatusko refused to take her identification, never told her why she was stopped and never left the passenger side of the vehicle. She said at one point the officer got so angry he cocked his gun and said if Joshalyn moved again he would ?blow her brains out.?

?He clicked the thing back and then he turned off his radio,? said Jasmine. ?I was like ?He?s going to kill us.??

?Me and the babies were crying and (Jasmine) jumped over me for my life, and I thank my sister for doing that,? said Joshalyn.

A witness at the scene said Tatusko kept his gun drawn at the passenger side window until more officers came to the scene and told him to drop the weapon.

?When I turned the corner, there were 10 police cars and (Lawton) was in the middle,? said Rick Hill, an employee of Shadyside Nursing Rehab on Kentucky Avenue. ?I heard her hollering for help and she had her hands out the window and everything. The cop already had his gun, not on her, but on the other side. When I looked in there she had kids. One cop said ?If the kids move again, we will shoot.??

Hill, who left a frantic voice message on Lawton?s sister?s phone during the standoff, said that once more officers arrived, they searched the vehicle for a weapon and found nothing. He also said Tatusko, who was not available for comment, was told to get into another vehicle and leave the scene.

Since that day, Lawton says she has struggled to come to terms with what happened to her family. The Shuman Center employee and former nurse, who changed careers to become part of the law enforcement community, said she doesn?t understand why she was treated as she was before, during and after the standoff. From the time she was pulled over to when she said police Lt. Cindy Windsor told her to shut up or ?You?re going to jail and your kids are going to CYF,? Lawton believes she and her children were treated worse than most criminals.

Lt. Windsor declined to comment other than to say that she was off of work that day. Tammy Ewin, spokesperson for the Pittsburgh Police, also declined to comment because of the case?s status with the CPRB.

As it was, Lawton ended up being cited for an insurance violation. She was fined and her car was towed, but according to her, the ultimate cost has already been paid with her daughters? security and peace of mind.

?Your inspection can be wrong, your license can be wrong, there?s no reason for (police) to come to the passenger side and pull a gun out and aim it through the window of a 7-year old,? she said.

?I can?t even sleep at night, I just think about it every day,? said Joshalyn. ?They got it deep in my mind. ?He was talking to me the whole time.?
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KBCraig

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Re: Officer draws weapon on 7-year-old girl
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2006, 02:43 PM NHFT »

A previous story:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06262/722998-53.stm

Mother tells review board about traffic stop, officer pointing gun at child

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
By Moustafa Ayad, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A visibly shaken Pamela Lawton told the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board last night that a city officer drew his gun on her 7-year-old daughter.

Mrs. Lawton, of the Hill District, described how, on Aug. 26, Officer Eric Tatusko of the Squirrel Hill station pulled his weapon and pointed it at Joshalyn, 7, during a traffic stop in Shadyside.

"He was trying to kill me and my babies," Mrs. Lawton said. "He told me he would blow my baby's brains out."

Police spokeswoman Tammy Ewin could not be reached for comment last night.

Elizabeth C. Pittinger, the board's executive director, said she could not speak about the facts of the case during an ongoing investigation.

Others in the room fell silent as Mrs. Lawton described how her older daughter, Jasmine, 8, began scrambling for the front seat and screaming while trying to protect her sister from the gun.

Mrs. Lawton said she was driving to Homewood with Joshalyn and Jasmine for a youth football game when Officer Tatusko signaled for her to pull over. She said she stopped her minivan just shy of the intersection of Negley and Kentucky avenues.

Mrs. Lawton said the officer approached the window on the passenger side where her daughter was sitting, pointed his weapon at the child and said: "Get your hands up."

When the officer drew the gun, Joshalyn unbuckled her seat belt and tried to jump into the back seat with her older sister as she cried to her mother, Mrs. Lawton said.

Mrs. Lawton said she pleaded with the officer to come to her side of the car and screamed out the window for help. She said she tried to give him her identification, but the officer refused to acknowledge her.

She said she was ticketed because her inspection sticker was not up-to-date and for disorderly conduct for losing control during the traffic stop and screaming for help.

"We cannot tolerate our 2-, 3-, 7- or 8-year-olds with guns in their faces," said Tim Stevens, head of the Black Political Empowerment Project. "The woman had no guns, no drugs ... last time I looked an inspection sticker was not a reason for a gun in your face."

Inside City Council Chamber, where the public hearing was held, more than 20 people stood at attention as Mrs. Lawton recounted the events.

Minister Jasiri X, of Muhammad Mosque 22 of Wilkinsburg, accompanied Mrs. Lawton to the lectern before she testified. He was flanked by 15 other members of the Nation of Islam mosque who came in support of Mrs. Lawton.

He said citizens were going to follow the investigation every step of the way. He said he was requesting a full inquiry from Police Chief Dominic J. Costa and was determined to meet with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

"When you point a gun at a 7-year-old, that is an act of terrorism," the minister said. "You cannot point a gun at a 7-year-old and not face charges."
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KBCraig

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Re: Officer draws weapon on 7-year-old girl
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2006, 03:01 PM NHFT »

http://newpittsburghcourieronline.com/articlelive/articles/36075/1/Mother-testifies-cop-pulled-gun-on-her-kids/Lawton-calmly-delivers-testimony-to-Citizens-Police-Review-Board.html

Lawton calmly delivers testimony to Citizens Police Review Board
When Pamela Lawton stepped to the microphone at the Pittsburgh Citizens Police Review Board hearing on police conduct, the 75 people who crowded into City Council Chambers gave her their complete attention.
 
Lawton, a Hill District mother who claims Pittsburgh Police officer Eric Tatusko pulled a gun on her and a car full of children during a traffic stop, told the CPRB her story of the traumatic encounter, which traumatized her children and has yet to be addressed by any public official.
   
Lawton, joined at the speakers? podium by Min. Jasiri X of Muhammad Mosque 22, spoke calmly and without tears for about eight minutes. Jasiri X also asked more than 20 people who came in support of Lawton to stand as she delivered her testimony.
   
Lawton said that on Aug. 26, she was driving her green, 1998 Ford Windstar with her two daughters, 7-year-old Joshalyn, 8-year-old Jasmine, and two other children ages 2 and 3. She said she was pulled over at the intersection at Kentucky Street and Negley Avenue. She said the police officer told her to ?get your hands up,? and then pulled out his gun, on the passenger side of the vehicle when a Pittsburgh Police cruiser signaled for her to pull over.
   
?I said, ?What?s the problem, officer?? and he said ?Get your hands up,?? wrote Lawton in a prepared statement. ?He repeated, pulled out his gun and pointed into the passenger side of the window where my youngest daughter was trying to get her seatbelt off. So, I put my hands up.?   
   
According to Lawton she testified that she and her children spent the next 20 to 30 minutes trying to convince officer Tatusko to put his weapon down or at least address his concerns to her. She testified that at one point, Tatusko cocked his gun to prepare to fire, while still training the gun on the children on the passenger side, telling 8-year-old Joshalyn if she moved again, he would ?blow her brains out.?
   
?The children were in the car screaming and crying,? she wrote in a statement. ?My hands were still in the air and I was screaming ?Help, someone help!? over and over again.?
   
?I understand why in a case like this you have to find out if it?s true or not,? said Lawton, concluding  her testimony. ?I?m here to tell you this is real so please help me.? Her remarks drew applause from the audience.
   
The CPRB then recessed to take her official statement.
   
The details of the police report said that Lawton became ?belligerent and disorderly? during the stop. However, it did not say officer Tatusko drew his weapon or called for backup, which counters what witnesses at the scene said. Several police cars came to the scene and the officers reportedly put Tatusko in one of the cruisers, and then searched Lawton?s vehicle, which was later towed.
   
Several witnesses have corroborated Lawton?s version of the incident, which the CPRB is also investigating.
   
However, Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the CPRB, said that if it is determined that a criminal act took place, the police would then conduct the investigation, and the CPRB would then be out of the loop. ?Then it would be up to the district attorney to file charges,? she said.
   
The incident is being investigated by the city Office of Municipal Investigations, according to Pittsburgh Police spokesperson Tammy Ewin. 
   
Ewin confirmed that Lawton received citations for disorderly conduct, operating a vehicle without a certificate of inspection, a lack of insurance and suspension of her license.
   
?There is no reason why a child should be afraid of the police. In school they teach that Officer Friendly will protect you,? testified Kay ?The Button Pusher? Bey. ?There?s a seven-year-old little girl right now who?s scared to go to sleep because of Officer Friendly. That is not acceptable, you shouldn?t accept it, I don?t accept it.?
   
?I don?t understand the dangers that officers face when they patrol the streets of Pittsburgh. However, it doesn?t add up to officers drawing weapons on unarmed women and children,? said Bomani Howze, a local teacher and father who brought his young son to the hearing with him. Howze said he has sent letters to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and council persons Bill Peduto, Tonya Payne and Twanda Carlisle urging them to look into the incident. No council persons attended the hearing.
   
?If we as Black men cannot protect our women and children, we do not deserve to live, period,? said Min. Jasiri X. ?We need to stand up and get a backbone and back our community and protect our community. We ought to be the ones who police our community.?
   
?We cannot tolerate our two-year olds, our three-year olds, our seven-year olds, our eight-year olds with guns in their face,? said Tim Stevens of the Black Political Empowerment Project, who said he would send a letter to police chief Dom Costa urging action on the matter.
   
Although Pittinger was encouraged by the passion of those who came to speak out, she wishes the public showed interest in the board on a more consistent basis. Last year, she said the board held a meeting to discuss the experience of children exposed to police violence and very few people showed up. While she plans to use the meeting to introduce new initiatives like a Youth Working Group to the board, she also wishes she could do these kinds of things before major events happen. She summed up the CPRB?s need for public input by noting what her board chair, Marsha Hinton, told the crowd that night. ?The power of the board rests in you.?
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KBCraig

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Re: Officer draws weapon on 7-year-old girl
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2006, 03:03 PM NHFT »

http://newpittsburghcourieronline.com/articlelive/articles/36066/1/Ransom-Notes-When-protect-and-serve-means-protect-their-own-its-time-to-say-no-more/Commmunity-at-large-needs-to-stand-up-en-masse.html

Ransom Notes? When ?protect and serve? means ?protect their own,? it?s time to say ?no more?
By Lou Ransom

Commmunity at large needs to stand up, en masse
Outrage: An act grossly offensive to decency, morality, or good taste.

I admit I don?t know a lot about police work. I don?t know when an officer feels threatened and what circumstances would lead an officer to pull his firearm.
   
So I need someone, someone in law enforcement, someone in a supervisory position with Pittsburgh Police, to tell me when there is a reason for a police officer to train his gun on an eight-year-old, a seven-year-old, a three-year-old and a two-year-old. I need someone to tell me how to explain to my family, explain to my friends, and explain to Pamela Lawton and her family, that this was an aberration, a fluke. Tell them it should not have happened and that there are safeguards in place to keep it from ever happening again, to anyone. I need someone to tell me why I should not be outraged.
   
We in the newspaper business are careful to use the word ?allegedly.? We use that word because at this point, we don?t have the whole story. We don?t have anything from the police officer, or the police force for that matter. All we have is what Pamela Lawton and her daughters ?allege? that officer Eric Tatusko did when he pulled their green, 1998 Ford Windstar over for a traffic stop. We use that word when Lawton tells the story about how frightened she was, and how frightened her children were, when this Pittsburgh Police officer threatened them with his service revolver.
   
We use the word ?allegedly? even though a half-dozen witnesses have come forth to corroborate Lawton?s terror. They too were amazed at the behavior of the police officer, who trained his gun on children, and directed his invective against unarmed, innocent children, while their mother pleaded for their safety.
   
We also use the word when the police department closes ranks and provides no information at all in the face of those allegations.
   
This week, other Pittsburgh residents came to a hearing before the Pittsburgh Citizen?s Police Review Board, to testify about police insensitivity and harassment. Twenty-nine people spoke at the hearing, relating tales of police officers who curse citizens, show insensitivity and seem to target them.
   
As terrible as this incident was (allegedly), adding insult to outrage is that this family, terrorized by a police officer, was then terrorized by the police force, which ultimately charged Lawton with driving without insurance and had her van towed. They left this terrorized family, including two toddlers, standing on the side of the road. By all accounts, they were pulled over for no reason, accosted by a gun-wielding police officer, and then were further victimized by a police department that searched their vehicle (finding nothing) and then gave her a ticket. She had to pay for that treatment from those sworn to ?protect and serve.?
   
Yes, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But, there is a healthy distrust of the process of proving police officers guilty around these parts. There are dead Black men strewn across the landscape, dead at the hands of police. We have seen police officers acquitted by juries who simply cannot fathom the idea that a police officer could do wrong. We have seen Black men killed by the police who were not even charged for those deaths. We have seen a police arbitration process which returns disciplined officers to the streets even after they kill citizens (who, by the way, are also innocent until proven guilty).
   
I don?t know what demons were tormenting officer Tatusko when he brought his police cruiser in pursuit of the Lawton vehicle. I don?t know what made him draw his gun. I don?t know what made him aim it at the passenger side of a vehicle filled with young children. I don?t know why he cocked his gun, while Lawton begged him not to hurt her babies.
   
But the worst demon afoot here would be indifference from the Black community, and from the general community. What would be worse is if the new mayor, the city council, the police chief, continue to act as if this horrific incident did not exist. So far, no one has officially acknowledged Pamela Lawson?s trauma, or the trauma suffered by her daughters Joshalyn and Jasmine. If Dom Costa is truly interested in improving police-community relations, he should step up right away and announce an official police investigation of the police assault on Pamela Lawton and her family. The new mayor should step up and say that he won?t rest until Pamela Lawton gets justice. The city council ought to vow to get to the bottom of the ?allegations,? and fire everyone who won?t cooperate in the investigation.
   
But the community at large ought to stand up, en masse, and say ?no more? to this outrage. Sometimes we have to protect and serve ourselves.
   
(Lou Ransom is managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier.)
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KBCraig

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Re: Officer draws weapon on 7-year-old girl
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2006, 03:05 PM NHFT »

Not directly related, but more from the same CPRB hearing:

http://newpittsburghcourieronline.com/articlelive/articles/36074/1/Citizens-Police-Review-board-hearing-airs-youth-concerns/Citizens-air-grievances-about-police-misconduct.html

Citizens Police Review board hearing airs youth concerns
By Deborah M. Todd
Courier Staff Writer
 

Citizens air grievances about police misconduct

A crowd of about 75 people showed up at City Council chambers Monday to participate in the Civilian Police Review Board public hearing on police conduct. The hearing, which turned into an open forum during a few emotional moments, heard testimonies from 29 citizens and didn?t adjourn until more than an hour after its scheduled ending time.
   
?It was a very successful hearing,? said Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the CPRB. ?There were a number of issues that were brought up that we will look at to develop further.?
 
LISTENING TO TESTIMONY--Members of the Pittsburgh Citizens Police Review Board listen intently to testimony delivered during a public hearing on police conduct.
 
Citizen?s grievances covered a range of different issues, from a complaint about a vehicle being wrongfully towed from in front of one man?s residence, to accusations of racial profiling and intimidation. But some of the most impressive calls for change addressed the police?s interactions with minors and came directly from young people.
   
?We were stopped by the Task Force, FBI, (and) State police,? testified 17-year old Bryan Randolph of Arlington. ?I asked why we were stopped, they didn?t answer me. I asked again why we were stopped, no answer. One officer said ?I arrested you last week for selling drugs.? Last week I wasn?t even in Hazelwood. I told him ?I?m not from here, I?m from Arlington.? He said, ?It don?t matter do as I say.? He accused me in front of my friends of being a drug dealer, in front of everybody. He defamed my character in a neighborhood where I?m not even from.?
   
?Same thing happened to me with harassment by the Task Force and police in Hazelwood. They jumped out on us, checked our pockets for drugs and asked what my friend does for a living,? said Darren Hill of Hazelwood, who also said he was pulled over and accused of flashing gang signs when he gave a friend in the passenger side of his car the ?thumbs down? sign. ?I?m getting tired of it-it?s getting boring. It?s old now,? he concluded.
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mraaron

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Re: Officer draws weapon on 7-year-old girl
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2006, 10:40 AM NHFT »

   This stuff makes my blood boil.  What a bunch of thugs.
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Recumbent ReCycler

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Re: Officer draws weapon on 7-year-old girl
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2006, 05:24 PM NHFT »

Unfortunately bad behavior by cops is more common than most people might think.  There are some decent cops out there, but there are far too many criminals on police forces.  Most cops aren't willing to break the thin blue line and let a bad cop get punished for his (or her) misdeeds.
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Skooma

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Re: Officer draws weapon on 7-year-old girl
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2006, 10:57 PM NHFT »

The Police are nothing more than a violent cult.
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