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Review boards to look at actions of police in South Side bar brawl

November 10, 2018

Two review boards are looking into the brawl between Pittsburgh police officers and four alleged members of the Pagans motorcycle club at a South Side bar last week.

Public Safety spokesman Chris Togneri said the incident has been referred to the Office of Municipal Investigations, the city’s investigating body.

Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizens Police Review Board, said her agency is also looking in to the incident.

“We have a lot of questions about the investigation, the conduct of the officers and the policy governing use of alcohol,” Pittinger said.

She said she also has concerns regarding the officers’ use of force and whether it was “sadistically used.”

The fight, outside Kopy’s on South 12th Street, landed four men in jail: Frank Deluca, 36, of Greenfield; Michael Zokaites, 38, of Shaler; Erik Hertzrater, 28, of Hampton; and Bruce Thomas, 61, of Allentown.

All are charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy and riot. A preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning was continued until Nov. 6.

Officers were undercover at the bar investigating a drug complaint, according to the criminal complaints filed against the four men. Two of the six bikers left the bar, and undercover officers requested backup after someone identified them as police, according to the complaint.

The remaining bikers approached the officers and, according to the complaint, the conversation began cordially but escalated when Deluca began “screaming obscenities” at one of the detectives. Someone pushed a detective, and the fight broke out.

Video obtained by Tribune-Review news partner WPXI-TV appears to show an officer saying, “I love being a cop,” moments after the brawl.

Police wrote in the complaint that they used a Taser and pepper spray to subdue the four suspects, two of whom were lawfully carrying handguns.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

“We’ve learned from the past that many times when we view a part of a video tape, we’re only seeing part of the story,” he said.

He declined to comment “on one statement or one part of the video.”

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