PITTSBURGH – The photos taken by Jordan Miles’ mother show his face covered with raw, red bruises, his cheek and lip swollen, his right eye swollen shut. A bald spot mars the long black dreadlocks where the 18-year-old violist says police tore them from his head.
Now, 10 days after plainclothes officers stopped him on a street and arrested him after a struggle that they say revealed a soda bottle under his coat, not the gun they suspected, his right eye is still slightly swollen and bloodshot. His head is shaved. The three white officers who arrested him have been reassigned. And his mother says she is considering a lawsuit.
“I feel that my son was racially profiled,” Terez Miles said. “It’s a rough neighborhood; it was after dark. … They assumed he was up to no good because he’s black. My son, he knows nothing about the streets at all. He’s had a very sheltered life, he’s very quiet, he doesn’t know police officers sit in cars and stalk people like that.”
A judge continued the case until Feb. 18 after the officers failed to appear at a hearing Thursday, Miles’ attorney, Kerrington Lewis, said. The police department is saying little as it investigates, and isn’t releasing the officers’ names.
Miles’ family describes him as a studious teenager who plays the viola for a jazz band and the orchestra at Pittsburgh’s prestigious Creative and Performing Arts High School.
The confrontation began around 11 p.m. Jan. 12, when the teenager walked out of his mother’s home and headed to his grandmother’s, where he spends most nights. His mother complimented him on the new jacket he had gotten for his birthday.
“It looks handsome,” she said, smiling as he walked down the front steps.
As Miles walked up the block, he noticed three men sitting in a white car, “but I thought nothing of it,” he said.
The criminal complaint says Miles was standing against a building “as if he was trying to avoid being seen.” But he says he was walking when the men jumped out of the car.
“Where’s the money?” one shouted, according to Miles. “Where’s the gun? Where’s the drugs?” the other two said. “It was intimidating; I thought I was going to be robbed,” Miles said.
That’s when he says he took off back to his mother’s house but slipped on the icy sidewalk. Before he could pull himself up, Miles said, the men were at his back.
“That’s when they started beating me, punching, kicking me, choking me,” he said.
Not until 15 minutes later, when uniformed officers drove up in a van and Miles overheard their conversation, did he realize he had been arrested. Initially, when the handcuffs clamped around his wrists, he thought he was being abducted.
The police believed Miles, who appeared to have something heavy in his pocket, was carrying a gun, according to the affidavit. The police say they used a stun gun on the teenager.
According to the affidavit, the object in Miles’ pocket turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew. But Miles says he didn’t have anything in his pocket and rarely drinks Mountain Dew.
“The story just doesn’t make sense when you read the affidavit,” said Lewis, the teen’s attorney.
Miles said the family is considering suing the police department and the officers.
“I knew that he hadn’t done anything wrong,” his mother said. “That’s just not an option for Jordan.”
Pittsburgh police have reassigned the three officers and put them back in uniform while the city investigates, spokeswoman Diane Richard said. She declined to say whether racial allegations are part of the probe.
Meanwhile, Jordan Miles says he awaits a physician’s approval to return to school and is suffering from nightmares and flashbacks.
Once he’s done with school, he says, he hopes to attend Penn State University — and study crime scene investigation.