Five Pittsburgh police officers were fired in connection to a man who was shocked with a stun gun last year and died, authorities said this week.
Jim Rogers, 54, died in October after Pittsburgh Bureau of Police officers attempted to arrest him over an allegedly stolen bicycle. NBC affiliate WPXI in Pittsburgh reported one of the officers used a stun gun 10 times and Rogers said “I can’t breathe” before losing consciousness.
Eight officers were recommended for discipline related to the Oct. 13 incident. Five were fired and three will remain employed, city officials announced Wednesday. The three who will remain on the force must undergo retraining. The names of the officers were not released by Pittsburgh officials.
The city did not disclose why five officers were terminated while three officers were not. All eight had been suspended without pay.
The eight officers have two weeks to accept their discipline or alert the department they intend to move to arbitration, the Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety said in a statement to NBC News on Thursday.
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey said at a press conference Wednesday that Rogers should still be alive.
“Mr. Rogers deserved to live a life of joy,” Gainey said. “He didn’t deserve to lose his life at the hands of police officers. What his life could have been will stay with me as long as I am mayor.”
Rogers’ relatives said in a statement to WXPI: “The family is pleased with what they consider to be a substantial first step in the direction of justice and accountability.”
“It should be noted that the loss of life under such horrific and unconscionable measures at the hands of the police is a story to often told to the black community,” the statement said. “While we appreciate the thoughtful comments of Mayor Gainey we look forward to substantial changes in the City of Pittsburgh Police Department to ensure that this never happens again.”
Robert Swartzwelder, president of the Pittsburgh police union, said the union will appeal the decisions on behalf of the eight officers. He said the appeal would include an arbitration process for the officers to get their jobs back, but also, for the three officers who received 40-hour suspensions without pay.
Swartzwelder also took exception to Gainey’s comment that Rogers died at the hands of the police.
“It’s premature to make statements without all the evidence being gathered that the police caused the death of Mr. Rogers,” Swartzwelder said.
The medical examiner in January ruled the death accidental, resulting from a lack of oxygen to the brain.
The city released a statement in December announcing the eight officers are facing discipline. Following Rogers’ death, police empaneled an internal Critical Incident Review Board to review officers’ actions, officials said.
The review board looked at all evidence, including video and officer statements and found that “a series of procedural failures contributed to this tragic outcome.”
The statement announced that of the eight officers, two were supervisors.
The review board also recommended the following changes: Any use of force incident will require the presence of a supervisor on scene to complete a medical assessment and request appropriate personnel and any incident involving the use of a stun gun will require emergency medical services personnel to assess the patient.
All officers were also required to complete a refresher course on stun guns followed by an exam, officials said.
Antonio Planas is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.
The Associated Press