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Panel Recommends Homicide Charges Against Pittsburgh Officers

November 4, 1995

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A coroner’s jury ruled Friday that five white police officers who arrested a cousin of Steelers defensive end Ray Seals should be charged with homicide in the man’s suffocation death while in custody.

Jonny Gammage, who was black, suffocated Oct. 12 after the officers pulled him over while he was driving Seals’ 1988 Jaguar.

District Attorney Robert Colville and Acting Coroner F. James Gregris can either accept or reject the jury’s recommendation. Colville said he will make his decision by the end of next week at the earliest.

Police officers have said they had to sit on Gammage and beat him with flashlights to stop him from flailing after they pulled him over for driving erratically.

But Gammage’s supporters have said Gammage, who was 5-foot-7 and weighed 187 pounds, would never have attacked the officers who pulled him over.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has called the death a ``lynching″ and the FBI is investigating.

Members of Gammage’s family burst into tears when they heard the jury’s recommendation, reached in 1 1/2 hours after a three-day hearing.

``It was a fair verdict. It’s just the first step to get to the bottom of it,″ Seals said.

Wayne Babish, police chief in Brentwood, the suburb of Pittsburgh where police officers first began following Gammage, emphasized that the officers have not yet been charged, let alone convicted.

``I would ask that we try this case in the criminal justice system and not in the streets,″ Babish said.

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