Jeannette police accused of excessive force in 2021 arrest




  • In US
  • 2022-09-28 10:06:00Z
  • By Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.

Sep. 28-A New Alexandria man claims he was assaulted by Jeannette police officers last year when he arrived at the scene of a vehicle crash involving his mother.

David Vucish, 50, appeared in court on Tuesday to challenge charges of resisting arrest and other offenses filed in connection with the May 11, 2021 crash.

Police said Vucish served as a "human barrier" as officials attempted to move his mother's disabled vehicle from Lowery Avenue after the two-car crash.

Vucish claims he was a victim of brutality. He said he suffered hearing loss and torn ligaments in his wrist as police forcibly slammed his head into a vehicle after he objected to the towing of his mother's SUV from the crash.

Defense attorney Dennis Charles of Allentown said in court Tuesday there is no evidence to support the allegations that Vucish obstructed police or rescue crews from clearing the crash site or that he acted violently toward law enforcement.

The defense wants Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Tim Krieger to dismiss all five misdemeanor counts filed against Vucish.

"They are trying to cover up their use of excessive force," Charles said.

Jeannette police Sgt. James Phillips testified Vucish's mother drove one of two vehicles that crashed near the intersection of Lowery and Baughman avenues. One of the vehicles struck an unoccupied building and both had to be towed as they leaked fluids and blocked traffic, Phillips said.

Vucish, who was not involved in the crash, later intervened and was agitated and demanded his mother's vehicle not be towed, police said.

Phillips testified Vucish positioned himself between the vehicle and a tow truck and repeatedly ignored orders from police to move before officers attempted to arrest and place him in handcuffs. Vucish attempted to avoid arrest by separating his hands and pushing his body away from officers, he testified.

"It took a reasonable amount of force," Phillips testified about the police's efforts to take Vucish into custody.

The defense claimed Vucish was on the telephone with Westmoreland County Sheriff James Albert - his brother-in-law - as he was arrested. Albert sat with Vucish family members during the hearing. Albert's wife recorded a few seconds of cellphone video, which was played in court.

The defense claims the video shows police swing Vucish toward a vehicle and attempt to place him in handcuffs.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Dupilka said the video was not previously viewed by prosecutors. She said the footage only shows a brief portion of the incident and said evidence from other police witnesses and rescue crews at the crash supported the criminal charges.

"He (Vucish) was angry, frustrated and combative with officers," Dupilka said. "This wasn't even his incident, it was his mother's and he injected himself into this."

The judge said he would review testimony from a three-hour preliminary hearing in August 2021 and would make a ruling on the case in the coming months.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich by email at rcholodofsky@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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