A police officer with a history of both on-duty and off-duty run-ins with the public arrested a bystander outside the Squirrel Hill Market Sunday after he told Abel that the officer’s “Thin Blue Line” facemask, was disrespectful to the American Flag.
According to video of the incident and an eyewitness at the scene, Abel told the man to leave the area. The man, who was going to the market, asked what he did wrong and why he had to leave, Abel took him into custody, even pulling his Taser on the young man, who continued to ask what he had done wrong.
Abel has a history of high-profile on- and off-duty incidents, including being fired and charged criminally for pistol-whipping and accidentally shooting a man while Abel was off-duty and drinking on the South Side in 2008. A man allegedly punched Abel outside a bar. Abel pursued the man, hit him with his gun, and accidentally discharged his weapon, shooting the man in the hand. Turns out, though, it wasn’t even the man who bumped into Abel. Abel was acquitted after the judge essentially ruled that a cop, even one who had been drinking, is never off-duty. However, the city paid close to $45,000 in a civil settlement. Abel got his job back.
During Sunday’s incident. Abel turns the man around and when he tells Abel that he did nothing wrong, the officer pulls the Taser.
“You know what, dude? The city gives me this,” Abel says as he pulls the stun gun and levels it at the man’s chest who is an arm’s length away.
he man replies: “No, no, no, please stop. Please don’t do that.”
Abel then shrieks at the man: “Then, turn around and put your hands behind your back, now! Now!.
The man continues to tell Abel. “I have not done anything.”
Abel replies: “I told you to go away and you didn’t want to listen.”
“But go away for what reason? Did I commit a crime?” the man asks
Abel replies: “Did I tell you to give me your ID?”
“But give it for what reason? All I said is that it’s disrespectful to have that certain mask on.”
Replies Abel: “And then I told you to walk away, didn’t I?”
The pair continue the back and forth and bystanders continue to ask the Abel what the man did to warrant arrest and search. Abel told the crowd: “He came up and decided to be disrespectful to me.” Many in the crowd pointed out that being disrespectful wasn’t a crime.
Pittsburgh Police issued a statement about the incident stating that Abel was working an approved off-duty assignment and that the man was blocking the exit to the market, “preventing other customers from leaving, including a blind couple.” According to the statement, an employee at the Squirrel Hill Market asked the man to move and said the man “became agitated and raised his voice,” and tried to engage the officer further about the flag, and continued to refuse to move. The officer asked for his identification several times so he could cite him, but the man refused each time and continued to block the exit and shout profanities at the officer.” The statement, which can be found below in its entirety said the man “tried to engage the officer further about the flag, and continued to refuse to move. The officer asked for his identification several times so he could cite him, but the man refused each time and continued to block the exit and shout profanities at the officer. At this point the officer moved to physically arrest the male, who resisted, knocking the officer’s body-worn camera into the street in the process. The male continued to resist arrest so the officer told him he would use his Taser if he did not comply. At that point, the man complied and put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed.” Police said Abel’s subsequent search of the man’s backpack turned up, “marijuana, THC edibles, and drug paraphernalia and did not have a medical marijuana card. Charges include “Resisting Arrest, Defiant Trespass, Disorderly Conduct, and narcotics-related charges.”
The Pittsburgh Current asked about the appropriateness of Abel wearing his mask while in uniform. No response was given.
In the videos, the man constantly questions why he’s being arrested. Alex Osgood of Regent Square witnessed the altercation and told the Pittsburgh Current earlier today that it did not appear that the man was blocking people from moving on the sidewalk and that to him it didn’t look like the man did anything except question Abel’s choice in facemasks.
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