First a $20 bill and now a $50 bike…
Another Black man died this week from what witnesses say was excessive and deadly force from Pittsburgh officers. According to WPXI, police were called on Jim Rogers for joyriding on a bike left in a front yard for sale. Neighbors reported that he took it for a ride, brought it back, and sat on a porch to smoke a cigarette before officers arrived, responding to a “theft in progress” on Wednesday morning.
One of the few details Pittsburgh police shared about the incident is that the 54-year-old was allegedly “aggressive and resisting arrest,” but neighbors pleaded for the arresting officer to stop and pulled out their cell phones to record. Witnesses said that he tased Rogers multiple times. A hospital examination is routine for anyone police deployed their tasers on, but Rogers had a medical emergency, was admitted in critical condition, and died on the following day.
The Allegheny County Medical Examiner identified Rogers, but it has not yet confirmed the cause of death. Although tasers are considered non-lethal force, they are still deadly and 40% of people killed by police tasers are Black. Without federal oversight or guidelines about taser use, individual agencies are left to regulate themselves and determine their own training. Tasers are considered Pittsburgh police’s “Tier 4” of force, which is used on Black people 63% of the time and also includes “Neck Restraint, Impact Weapon, [and] Police Canines.” The highest level is Tier 5, “Intended Discharge of Firearm.”
According to CBS Pittsburgh, dozens of loved ones and community members held a vigil on Friday starting in Friendship Park and ending for a moment of silence where Rogers was tased in Bloomfield. “We need answers. There’s a lot of stuff we don’t even know,” said Mykala Rogers, one of Jim Rogers’ nieces. “Why did they, just why? They didn’t have to tase him that many times.”
His other niece, Diamond Rogers, said that he would have loved the sense of community that united everyone at the vigil. “He loved people, and this is the type of thing he would do for somebody else so he just. I wish he was here to see it.”
This entire tragedy was unnecessary. Officers should have been helping Rogers, who was unarmed and believed to be homeless and mentally ill. He returned the bike and the owner said she would have given it to Rogers for free. The community is demanding accountability for Jim Rogers’ death and repeated instances of police brutality. It’s already suspicious that the only ones calling him violent or aggressive are the police. Hopefully, footage recorded on officer body cameras and bystanders’ cell phones will help the family get answers and justice.
Allegheny County Police have taken over the investigation. The four officers involved are on administrative leave.