Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Wins Civil Case over 2010 Road Rage Incident

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

City Wins Civil Case over 2010 Road Rage Incident

Article excerpt

Bradley Walker was a Pittsburgh police detective May 1, 2010, when he choked a Squirrel Hill man in a road rage incident, but he wasn't on duty and it wasn't the city's responsibility, a jury determined Monday.

The unanimous civil verdict by the eight-member jury in U.S. District Court meant that the city need not pay Jarret Fate, 32, anything for his troubles. It was a boost for the city administration just days after the Friday indictment of former police Chief Nate Harper on corruption charges. Mr. Harper was a defendant in the civil case until Wednesday, when U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab let him out of the case, along with Assistant Chief George Trosky.

"We never thought [Mr. Walker] was acting as a policeman," Chief Trosky said. "He wasn't. It was the right verdict."

During the trial held last week, there was no dispute that Mr. Walker choked Mr. Fate and threatened him with his service gun after the two were involved in a fender-bender exiting the Parkway toward Oakland. Mr. Walker was fired because of the incident and convicted of three misdemeanors.

Assistant city solicitor Mike Kennedy argued that because Mr. Walker was driving his son to work and never sought to arrest or cite Mr. Fate, he was not acting "under color of state law," meaning as a law enforcement professional. The jury agreed, and as a result it never got to the other questions posed by Mr. Fate: whether the city failed to supervise Mr. Walker, whether that led to the incident, and what the damages were.

Mr. Fate's case focused largely on the 32 confirmed citizen complaints against Mr. Walker during his 17 years with the city. The city should have fired Mr. Walker long before 2010, perhaps in 2007 when he punched another detective and had a domestic incident in which he allegedly hit his wife and choked his son, argued Mr. Fate's attorney, Josh Autry.

"I'm happy that we shed more light on the situation and combed through the facts," said Mr. Fate, after the verdict was read.

"We've been able to uncover substantial evidence regarding how the city has poorly investigated complaint after complaint," Mr. …

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