- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) - City police have defended - and promised to investigate - the arrest of a man at a halfway house who was hit with batons after police said he resisted efforts by staff to search him for drugs.

City police called a news conference Monday after surveillance video of the Aug. 26 incident was leaked to Pittsburgh TV stations.

The video shows two officers hitting Lonnie Jenkins, 32, with batons more than a dozen times after they were called to the Renewal Center downtown.

“It’s an assault by these officers of the law, and it’s disgusting,” said Scott Wescott, the attorney representing Jenkins on criminal charges he faces in the incident.

But Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant and Cmdr. Eric Holmes said police have reviewed the video and don’t believe excessive force was used.

“It does not appear the officers did anything wrong, did not use excessive force,” Bryant said. “Although to the general public it may look like, ‘Wow!’, to our eyes it just does not look like the officers were at fault this time.”

The two officers involved remain on normal duty while the city’s Office of Municipal Investigation reviews the incident. The Citizen Police Review Board, which fields complaints from the public, is also investigating.

Jenkins was ordered to stand trial on drug possession and resisting arrest charges after a preliminary hearing earlier this month. But prosecutors withdrew an aggravated assault charge, and a city magistrate dismissed another, stemming from his scuffle with police, court records show.

A criminal complaint shows police arrived about 1:30 a.m. after another inmate was found with drugs and, while the officer was there, security workers told police Jenkins was also found with heroin.

The complaint indicates Jenkins lunged “suddenly and aggressively” at officers and made a fist, but was kept from throwing a punch by a second officer.

But Wescott contends his client adopted a “defensive posture” and made a fist only in response to being wrongfully struck by the officers.

Holmes, the police commander, said it was a routine - if violent - arrest.

“There are times when officers have to use force to take people into custody,” Holmes said. “And there are times, unfortunately, when it doesn’t look good.”


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