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Officer investigated for forceful gay pride arrest

By Joe Mandak

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A police officer was put on desk duty after video surfaced showing him punching a woman at the city's gay pride parade and festival.

The officer, Souroth Chatterji, will remain on restricted duty for a month during an internal investigation, Mayor Bill Peduto said Monday.

Chatterji said in a criminal complaint that he was trying to break up a fight when he grabbed the woman by the head and punched her in the side so he could handcuff her. The officer said the woman, Ariel Lawther, 22, of Harmony, fought with him and kicked him in the groin, resulting in charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest.

She also was charged with simple assault for allegedly attacking a man the mayor said was with a group of people opposing the parade. Peduto said the episode began with "comments from some of the folks who had gathered to oppose the parade."

Online court records don't list an attorney for Lawther. She doesn't have a listed telephone number and didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on her Facebook page, where a friend posted the brief video.

The Delta Foundation, a local group that advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, asked police to investigate the officer's actions.

Peduto said the city's Office of Municipal Investigations, which reviews cases in which citizens accuse police of misconduct, is probing the encounter.

Police also were trying to find additional video that might shed light on what preceded the arrest, Peduto said.

The video, which depicts less than 10 seconds of the confrontation, appears to show the officer pulling Lawther by the hair and punching her in the side. In his complaint, Chatterji acknowledged he "grabbed Lawther by the head and swung her out of the crowd" and that he later punched her "in the left abdomen several times to distract her enough so I could handcuff her."

The mayor declined to say whether he believed the officer used excessive force, saying all he had seen was the brief video clip.

"I want to remain fair both to the officers and to the public. We will not delay this investigation, but I will not make any judgment until such time that OMI has had the opportunity to fully investigate," Peduto said.

The Office of Municipal Investigations makes nonbinding recommendations for discipline, up to and including termination.

The president of the police union did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the officer's behalf.

The officer said in his criminal complaint that Lawther apologized to him afterward saying, "I'm sorry I did not see you were a cop. I'm sorry I hit you." The officer had warned Lawther "not to be so physically offensive towards the demonstrators because she was clenching her fist and stating `I'll (expletive) kill you'" before she punched one of them, the complaint said.

Lawther told police she didn't need medical help and the man she allegedly punched didn't wish to press charges, the complaint said.

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flagwaver2 June 16 2014 at 6:24 PM

She brought it on herself. Gay, straight, black, white, male, female doesn't matter..she initiated force. She was acting like a thug and a bully. Besides, It's not like he shot her.
Incidentally, she did not do the "gay community" very proud that day. She's an embarrassment and just one example of why most self-respecting gays would not be caught dead anywhere near a gay "pride" event.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
16 replies
entheoscht June 16 2014 at 6:51 PM

Why is Amerika suddenly embracing homosexuality?
I don't mind them coming out of the closet but I wish they'd STAY IN THE HOUSE!!

Flag Reply +99 rate up
49 replies
dmg12700 June 16 2014 at 6:30 PM

I am sorry but speaking as a gay person, If a COP says Stop you stop, If you still chose to be belligerent then that's on you and you have to be subdued, she should have just STOPPED and not kicked a cop in the ba**s. Gay or Straight you still need to be respectful of authority. Okay haters bring it on.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
49 replies
Glenn June 16 2014 at 6:14 PM

This doesn't have anything to do with a parade or LGTB. It is about a citizen that was misbehaving and the police stepped in. The perpetrator resisted the arrest and kicked the officer in the groin. She deserves some jerking around until she can be restrained. I'm sure the police were prebriefed about the sensitivity of the event. We don't put police on the street to become punching bags for the unlawful. Until I read otherwise, I'm with the cop. If she kicked me in the groin.......I would defend myself accordingly. A nice solid punch to the face should do quite well in my defense.

Flag Reply +95 rate up
7 replies
William June 16 2014 at 6:59 PM

You want gay rights, I want gun rights. You leave me alone I'll leave you alone. The only diff is I don't run in the streets acting like an idiot.

Flag Reply +93 rate up
29 replies
jljonesleisure June 16 2014 at 7:13 PM

Who gives a rats a.., throw her in jail. Just because she's gay does not give her special rights !!!

Flag Reply +86 rate up
6 replies
boogiewiz June 16 2014 at 6:53 PM

she brought ther law. he told her to stop, and punched to move her out of the way and tried to make an arrest.. Since when is it o.k to just kick. scream scratch at a cop and get away with it.. She was wrong and got arrested..

Flag Reply +55 rate up
sun1045 June 16 2014 at 8:08 PM

Looks like he was trying to do his job..

Flag Reply +44 rate up
Richard June 16 2014 at 6:12 PM

Can't be true liberals are non violent tolerant diverse people

Flag Reply +37 rate up
11 replies
ironmikemiata June 16 2014 at 9:48 PM

Do us all a favor,Go back in the closet where you belong,

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
samsmi ironmikemiata June 16 2014 at 10:16 PM

The world was a much better place then!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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