The Allegheny County District Attorney’s office has refused testimony from four Pittsburgh police detectives who got in a bar fight last fall.
The four detectives were allegedly working undercover at Kopy’s Bar on the South Side of Pittsburgh when they started a brawl without getting the okay from their superiors. This news comes after the DA’s office learned that detectives David Honick, David Lincoln, Brian Martin, and Brian Burgunder had been reinstated to the Pittsburgh police department. They’ve reportedly been moved from the narcotics division to the violent crime unit.
“I have been asked to provide notice that this office cannot accept statements/testimony of the above without corroboration from a second officer who can testify to what occurred in all cases,” First Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Spangler wrote in a letter directed at Police Chief Scott Schubert.
“We cannot put them on the stand in court as the lead witness,” Spangler continued. “Further, it must be determined on a case-by-case basis whether we would use them to corroborate another police witness.”
The detectives in question allegedly spent hours at the bar drinking before starting a fight with several members of the Pagans motorcycle club in October. The fight allegedly began when Detective Honick called for backup on his cellphone and began yelling at Frank Deluca, a Pagans member.
The shouting eventually devolved into a full-on brawl. The fight eventually ended when Police Sgt. Matthew Turko arrived and pepper-sprayed more or less indiscriminately into the melee. Stephen Kopy, the owner of the bar, claimed that the bikers didn’t instigate the fight and that he was “offered no care or assistance” after being hit by residual pepper spray.
“It’s refreshing in that the officers’ integrity and credibility are finally being judged on their performance,” Executive Director Elizabeth Pittinger told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Pittinger also claims that the DA’s letter will hamper these detectives’ ability to perform their duties within the violent crime unit, claiming that they may not be “qualified to interact with victims of violent crime, to obtain witness statements and information.”
For his part, Robert Swartzwelder, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 was not happy with the implications of the letter. Though he hasn’t read it yet, Swartzwelder claims that materially altering “an officer’s working conditions without due process” is a direct violation of the detectives’ employment rights. The union has yet to make an official statement regarding the letter.
[Photo via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Screen Cap]