Pittsburgh Police Caught on Video Shooting into Car of Unarmed Suspects

On the same night that police in Southern California were chasing a driver through the streets of Inglewood, police in Pittsburgh were doing the same.

And just as it happened in Inglewood Sunday night, a citizen ended up recording a portion of the chase on video.

But instead of it resulting in a comical Youtube video that currently has more than 800,000 views when it only had around 500 when I posted it here yesterday, it sparked an internal police investigation on a questionable shooting – including one shot of a cop standing on top of a taxi cab firing into a motionless car.

Pittsburgh police said they tried to ensure the safety of the public by calling off the chase of a mother and her son who are accused of trying to buy crack before speeding off.

But a group of off-duty cops in a popular nightlife area were keeping up with the chase on their radios, so when the suspects ended up in their area, they ended up shooting several rounds of gunfire into the car – even though there was never an indication that the suspects were armed.

In fact, the suspects didn’t even have drugs in the car, according to CBS Local.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper said officers attempted to use road spikes to slow down the driver’s vehicle, but he was able to avoid them, continuing toward the densely-populated South Side at a high rate of speed. Harper also said officers tried to call off the chase twice by backing off, in hopes that the driver would slow down or abandon the vehicle.

The chase eventually stopped when five off-duty officers working detail at the nearby bars shot at the car and it slammed into another parked car near 13th Street on the South Side.

The driver and the mother were both hit by bullets. Both were transported to the hospital and are in serious condition.

Harper said the police officers believed their use of deadly force was justified because the driver was using his car as a weapon.

Police say the scene was chaotic, as the incident happened around the time many of the South Side’s bars were closing. Officers from several zones were called out to control the unruly crowd — at one point, close to two dozen officers lined the perimeter of the scene.

One witness said he saw police officers shoot the driver through the window of the car after it crashed and claims that police never told the driver to put his hands up or step out of the car.

“I had just left the bar on the South Side and I heard a car crash and I turn around and as I was turning, I heard two gun shots,” the witness said. “And I looked and a police officer had ran and jumped right on top of a car and fired into the window of the vehicle that had just crashed four times, it was pop, pop, pop, pop and after that it was dead silence.”

CBS Local said they also posted the unedited raw video somewhere on their site, but I can’t seem to find it.

So all we have right now is what they’re telling us, which is that police were looking out for the safety of the people in a crowded area by firing several times into a moving car, then firing an additional six times from an elevated position after the car struck a stationary car.

But witnesses are saying that they might not have started shooting until after the car had crashed in which they would no longer be a threat.

And despite shooting at least six times, they left both suspects alive, which is good, but also goes against police protocol, which is to kill your target.


About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

Check Also

Stephen Matakovich

Pittsburgh District Attorney to Refile Charges Against Acquitted Cop who Attacked Teen on Video

The Pittsburgh police officer who was acquitted this week on assault charges when a surveillance …

  • Joel Turner

    CopProtocol A dead perp is cheaper than a live victim.

    • Frank Ney

      As the cops in Chicago are finding out. $33 million about to be paid.

      • $910553

        That ain’t coming out of THEIR pockets. The taxpayers will cover it instead.

  • Nathan J

    “Using car as a weapon”? maybe earlier, but as soon as the car is stopped and surrounded by cops, there’s no reason to shoot into the car anymore. They aren’t going anywhere at that point. Dumbass had no chance to escape going through Carson anyway… shoulda cut up over Mt. Oliver if he was serious about escaping. The main drag is hard enough to drive through during the best of times, but when the bars close, forget it!

    • Michael Ross

      Come on, you can do better than that. We’ve all seen enough cop reality TV to know the kind of shit these people can pull. They crash more than once, they try to keep going. They pull over, the cops approach the car, they slam it into reverse and do a handbrake turn or whatever. They have zero concern for anyones life or safety except their own.

      The point when the car is ‘stopped and surrounded by cops’ is probably the MOST dangerous of all. Unless the car keys come flying out the window, rapidly followed by a pair of empty hands, it’s not going to end well.

      • JdLxx

        They have zero concern for anyones [sic] life or safety except their own.

        You’re talking about the cops, right? Agree 100%! LEO thugs have shown beyond all doubt that their own safety (along with their love of emptying their clips into anything that moves, or that doesn’t move) is the ONLY thing in their minds.

        Oh, you’re NOT talking about the cops?

      • Zee-L Usay

        Not enough info here to say. If the car was crashed and the driver was trying to get to move with the cop in front of it…. ehhh maybe ok. I mean he could be NOT in front of the car and then would not have much of an excuse. But if they just started shooting without at least a Texas stop command (HALT (boom) or I’ll shoot!) that’s not good.

  • genewitch

    The part that you almost miss is that the officers called off the chase. There were off duty officers in BARS. with LOADED GUNS. who went outside because quote “we heard on the radio” unquote and shot AT A MOVING CAR. in a heavily populated area. What in the hell?

  • $28125078

    Cop needs to be relieved of his badge. The one in the video who fired shots into the stationary car lives in a fantasy land that was probably created in his head when he served in the military.

  • Michael Ross

    “…attempted to use road spikes to slow down the driver’s vehicle, but he was able to avoid them, continuing toward the densely-populated South Side at a high rate of speed…”

    That says everything you need to know about the I-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-anyone attitude of the driver of the car. Now those who have seen previous posts know that I like to try to see both sides of every story and am by no means an uncritical supporter of LE – quite the reverse at times. But as far as I’m concerned any such situation which ends with the car permanently stopped and no officers or innocent bystanders injured is a GOOD result. I’m a fireman and I’ve seen the consequences of idiotic driving quite enough.

    Don’t drive like a homicidal lunatic and STOP when the cops tell you to, don’t lead them on a chase! It’s not rocket science, folks!

    • JdLxx

      You are missing the big picture. The only reason this happened at all was that cops intervened in a private, consensual transaction. THEY are the cause of the entire mess.

      “They were only enforcing the law,” you say? So were countless thugs throughout history, and we have the remnants of gas chambers to prove it. If a law is illegitimate, anyone who enforces it is a criminal.

      I have never tried crack and will almost certainly never want to try crack, but if I DO ever decide to partake of it, I’ll find someone willing to sell it to me. Armed criminal thugs in government clown costumes would be well advised not to interfere.

      • Michael Ross

        If you mean buying drugs, you’re attacking the wrong chap; I’m 100% in favour of decriminalisation of all drugs. My body, my choice.

        Nothing about the law as presently written excuses or justifies endangering innocent people.

        And the news report doesn’t mention drugs at all; it says they ran a red light then took off when a cop tried to pull them over.

        It doesn’t matter; my problem is with their driving. Whether the cop is being a good cop or an asshole doesn’t matter. Whether the law they’re stopping you for is a good law or a bad law doesn’t matter. You do NOT endanger the innocent by driving like a maniac to try to escape.

        Oh and gas chambers? Godwin; you lose.

  • http://excoplawstudent.wordpress.com/ ExCop-Lawyer

    Carlos, I have to disagree with your final statement. Any good police firearms instructor will almost always address this every requalification. An officer does not shot to kill, nor to wound, but to stop. You shot until you stop the threat, and that should be your only motivation. Once there is no threat, you cease fire. The end of the threat can be that the subject goes down, or drops his weapon, or whatever.

    You teach them to shoot center of mass, not to kill, but to ensure hits. In a gunfight, people who are expert shots find that they’re not as accurate (only 17% of rounds fired hit the target in a police gunfight), and aiming center of mass maximizes the hit potential.

    • Burgers Allday

      The only certain way be sure that the threat has been stopped is to be certain that the suspect is dead. Which is why it is accurate to conflate “stop the threat” with “kill the suspect,” as Mr. Miller has laudably done here.

      But, you knew that already.

      • http://excoplawstudent.wordpress.com/ ExCop-Lawyer

        There is a difference. I had a number of occasions where I could have legally and justifiably used deadly force, but never had to do so. In each and every one of those incidents, I was only concerned with stopping the threat to myself, my partner, or anyone else who was present. In the one incident I was shot at (and missed, thankfully), all four officers present chose first to find cover, then address the situation. None of us wanted to kill the individual, and we didn’t have to.

        The same thing would have been true if we had fired back – our only concern was to stop him from harming someone, not to kill him.

        To discuss the matter on the internet and claim that police “shoot to kill” doesn’t make it true and it certainly doesn’t make it police protocol.

        I know that this won’t have any effect on those here that jump on the police, and I imagine that I’ll hear from a good many of those. I knew that when I posted, but I respect Carlos, admire what he is doing, and wanted him to know of my disagreement with his choice of words. I’m not really concerned about how the cop-haters view it.

        The goal should be to educate officers in photography and constitutional rights issues, and to point out when they are wrong so that they can be held to account.

        • Burgers Allday

          We are not saying that policemen have to shoot until the suspect’s death under the “stop the threat” standard.

          Rather, we are saying that when they do shoot until the suspect is certainly dead, then that will always be deemed a justified response under the “stop the threat” standard.

          This is why the “stop the threat” standard can be fairly and accurately conflaced with the “shoot to kill” standard.

          If what you say is true, then I admire the fact that you did not fully exercise your “stop the threat” prerogatives that you had as a government agent, but don’t let that confuse you about the true extent of those prerogatives.

          Policemen are essentially never adjudged to have fired too many times in cases where it was justifiable to fire the first bullet or shotgun round.

          Again, I think you knew all this already.

  • yeah it is…

    anybody ever think that the fella that thought he heard pop pop pop pop after the car had stopped just MIGHT have been drinking and his judgement was altered, considering it was closing time at all the clubs near by….

  • George B

    Were the shooters tested for alcohol use after the incident? What is their status now – still on duty or?

  • Bennie Flagg

    police protocol, which is to kill your target ??

    • http://excoplawstudent.wordpress.com/ ExCop-Lawyer

      Except that’s not police protocol.

  • Flashing Scotsman

    I’m in agreement with the idea behind most of the stories here on this site. I would hope that, given a chance, most LEOs would do the the right thing, and obey the law.

    In the case of people in a vehicle, running from the police, I believe that the police should do whatever it takes to protect INNOCENT people, stopping the chase with whatever force necessary to stop it immediately. Most of the time, I think police are too lenient with these people, and should start shooting early and keep shooting often, whenever it is safe to do so. Just my opinion.

  • dumb copologist

    Yes, because shooting bullets into a stopped car in a densely populated area is all about safety.