It's a question that arises every time video of a violent arrest video surfaces: How much force is too much force? It's the question some are asking after video surfaced of police in Pittsburgh tasering and clubbing an unruly baseball fan over the weekend. But when you hear that the man was making death threats, the cries of brutality are more subdued.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review explains what happened in the video:
Scott J. Ashley, 41, of Friendship was arrested at Saturday's Pirates game and charged with four misdemeanors, including public drunkenness and resisting arrest.
The video shows two officers taking at least six swings at a man meeting Ashley's description, first Tasering him to little effect before clubbing him in the neck, head, side and legs before he is eventually cuffed on the concourse floor.
This is the video*:
"We both feared for our safety," city detective Francis Rende, apparently one of the offices involved, wrote in a criminal complaint filed yesterday. And apparently he had good reason. According to Rende's complaint, Ashley threatened to kill someone who stood up to him:
Rende wrote that Ashley had refused to comply at his seat, even asking police to move out of his way so he could see the game. He then began inciting the crowd, according to Rende, and the crowd started chanting "USA!" which can be heard on the video.
The violence began when Ashley, once down the steps, tried to high-five another fan. A park staff member then appears to put his arm up to try and block the high-five, and Ashley responds by elbowing that man, whom the police report names as Travis Skibiel. It does not give Skibiel's affiliation, but says Ashley then threatened to kill Skibiel if he ever sees him again.
That's when the tasering and the clubbing started. Officers can be seen striking Ashley several times, once in the neck, after Ashley is unaffected by the taser. Finally, after a scuffle, they subdue him. But despite the arrest, Rende believed their safety was still in danger due to the unruly crowd that had gathered and were chanting "USA!" in reference to Ashley's red, white, and blue jacket.
"We were being surrounded by the drunked fans and finally got the actor up and took him to the security office," Rende wrote. "All the while facing the wrath of a very hostile crowd."
A city spokeswoman declined to comment because she had not reviewed the police reports.
Get more details from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
*The original video posted with this story was removed. We have found the original from the blog countingbaseballs.com and posted it. You can read more details about the incident from countingbaseballs.com.