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Judge apologizes after video of him telling officer to shoot man goes viral

August 6, 2018

A sceenshot from a video uploaded to Facebook by George and Ashley Justice. The video is from a police officer’s body cam and claims shows Magisterial District Judge Thomas P. Caulfield suggesting to shoot someone.

Magisterial District Judge Thomas P. Caulfield apologized Wednesday after a video of him suggesting that a police officer shoot a man who visited his office went viral on social media.

The video, which appears to be from a police officer’s body camera, shows the officer enter an office to ask Caulfield what to do in the future when Brian Jones of Forest Hills stops by the office.

Caulfield tells the officer to shoot Jones.

“I don’t think he should be on the bench,” Jones said. “Him apologizing to someone else means nothing.”

Jones said Caulfield has not apologized to him.

In an emailed statement, Caulfield said, “I apologize for making the statements in the video. I would like to acknowledge that the statements I made in the video were inappropriate. It was certainly not my intention for these statements to be taken seriously and I deeply regret any harm that this has caused.”

The video, taken April 2017, shows a police officer talking to Caulfield in his office. Jones said the Forest Hills police officer and Caulfield are talking about a recent visit from him.

“I want to see how you want to proceed ... in the future,” the officer says.

“I want you to shoot him,” Caulfield says.

The two continue talking, and then the officer says: “I don’t know how you think of it.”

“Shoot him,” Caulfield says again.

The officer then appears to turn off the body camera.

Jones said he obtained the video during a court case in which he was the defendant. He said he went to the office that day to address an issue in a case. He does not know why a Forest Hills officer was there.

“They had no reason to call the officer,” Jones said. “I wasn’t irate. I wasn’t causing a problem. I was merely coming to the issuing authority to address an issue I had on the summons.”

Jones, 51, was found guilty in November 2017 of disorderly conduct in connection with an incident earlier that year in Forest Hills, court records show.

Jones shared the video with Ashely Palmer and George Allen III, who started a social media website to expose hateful social media posts in the wake of the fatal police shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Antwon Rose II June 19. Allen posted the video Tuesday evening under his Facebook page “George Justice.” It had more than 10,000 views as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

“I watched it, and I was completely shocked,” said Palmer of Pittsburgh’s West End neighborhood. “This is a man that holds a public office. I think these types of comments being made by someone in that position are fully inappropriate. I’m not sure what kind of consequences he should face ... but as a citizen I could have potentially voted for someone like that and that alarms me.”

Caulfield’s term ends in 2024, said Angharad Stock, deputy court administrator for special courts. He was elected to his second term this year.

The magisterial district includes Braddock Hills, Chalfant, Churchill, Forest Hills and Swissvale.

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