Rob Taylor Jr. - Courier Staff Writer
May 4, 2023
Attorney Todd Hollis, announces an $8 MILLION settlement with the city of Pittsburgh for the family of Jim Rogers.
You couldn’t see James Frierson’s eyes. They were hidden behind a pair of sunglasses.
Was it because of the sunlight, or was it to hide the pain, the hurt, the trauma of standing at the exact spot that his brother, Jim Rogers, was hit by a Taser numerous times by a Pittsburgh Police officer nearly two years ago.
No one offered to provide medical help to Rogers, 54, even as attorney Todd Hollis said he sat in the back of a police car “for over 30 minutes, screaming and begging for help. There were sergeants, there was a lieutenant, medics there…all of them heard him…asking to be given medical attention. West Penn Hospital is three blocks away from here. They drove by Shadyside Hospital…our experts have said that had he been given medical attention sooner, he would have lived.”
Hollis, Frierson, and numerous community advocates were on hand on Harriet Street in Bloomfield, on the afternoon of April 27, to announce that the City of Pittsburgh had settled with the family of Jim Rogers for $8 million in the wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in April 2022 by the estate of Jim Rogers, who was Black. Hollis was the attorney representing the estate.
On Oct. 13, 2021, a woman on Harriet Street called police to report that a man had “stolen” a bicycle, although witnesses on the street said the bicycle had been left for anyone to take. When police arrived, they found the alleged suspect, Rogers. One of the officers, Keith Edmonds, then used a Taser on Rogers repeatedly. Much of the incident was caught on video.
“Officer Edmonds’ brutal attack on Mr. Rogers through the repeated use of a Taser on an unarmed, nonviolent, older gentleman was without cause or justification and undertaken recklessly, wantonly and with gross negligence,” read part of the lawsuit filed against the city, 11 police officers and two paramedics.
Police took Rogers towards the Allegheny County Jail, but after noticing his deteriorating status, they quickly took him to UPMC Mercy Hospital. However, Rogers died the next day, Oct. 14, 2021.
JAMES FRIERSON IS THE BROTHER OF THE LATE JIM ROGERS. (PHOTO BY ROB TAYLOR JR.)
The incident took place prior to Ed Gainey, who is Black, becoming Pittsburgh’s mayor. But a few months after Mayor Gainey took office, his office announced that it had fired five Pittsburgh Police officers connected to the incident.
That wasn’t going to be enough, Hollis and the Rogers family said.
“This is the most egregious case that I have ever seen in my 29 years of practicing law,” Hollis said on April 27, moments after announcing what he called a historic settlement. “It’s senseless. Most people probably won’t believe me, but when we decided to resolve this case, my interest was not the money. The money is going to help Mr. Rogers’ daughter secure a future for her children. I’m at the stage of my life where legacy is more important to me, knowing that my daughter can walk in any neighborhood and not be judged simply because she doesn’t fit in. I want to know that when I’m long gone, our children will live in a better place than what exists now. Harriet Street will go down in infamy as one of those neighborhoods that committed the worst crime in human history.”
Tim Stevens, Chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, said he met Rogers on a few occasions. “He was just a gentle soul. Anybody who met him would know that. He was not a threat to anybody. Just because he was born Black, and maybe dark, maybe that meant something to somebody. But he was a human being, and he took the bike back, and he’s dead.”
Mayor Gainey released a statement shortly after the news conference. It read, in part: “My heart is with Jim Rogers’ family, friends, and loved ones today. As we put his family’s lawsuit against the city behind us, the city continues to pray for the family over this unnecessary loss of life…In addition to the monetary remedy of this settlement, we will also be reviewing our use of force policies with the family and other advocates. We are committed to changing policing in our city and working to rebuild community police relationships so that everyone in Pittsburgh feels safe.”
Hollis announced that the family of Rogers wants the City of Pittsburgh to implement a set of policies dubbed the “Jim Rogers Rules,” which are broken into five components: General changes related to the culture of policing in the city; Changes related to the use of force; Changes specifically related to the use of Tasers; Changes related to the medical care provided to criminal suspects by police officers; and Discipline.
More specifically, the Rogers family wants the city to “train officers to de-escalate situations instead of enflaming them,” “retrain every officer with access to a Taser in the policy and practices and the appropriate and inappropriate use of Tasers,” and “implement a policy and congruent training of EMTs that they are free to assess the situation at the scene of a police incident and determine all who need to be treated and make that determination free of police guidance.”
“There has to be a better way of dealing with the public so that police are not given the unilateral authority to decide when and if somebody will get medical attention,” Hollis said at the news conference. “And why would 30 police officers respond to a homeless person (Rogers) who had allegedly stolen a bicycle? We’re in Zone 5. Could that have been the most important crime on October 13?”
Hollis added: “Had he been given medical attention sooner, he would have lived. From a humanitarian standpoint, how many times does somebody have to ask for help before a reasonable person decides to give them help?”
For Frierson, the older brother of Rogers, he was asked by reporters what he would say to the Pittsburgh Police officer who Tased Rogers, and the others who failed to come to Rogers’ aid thereafter.
“What is there to say?” Frierson replied. “I’ve watched that (video) over and over again, it was the most inhumane thing I’ve ever seen, even if he was not my brother. It was just unreasonable.”
Frierson added: “There’s never going to be closure, ever. You can’t unsee what we saw.”