Woman’s arrest leads to city investigation
Staff and wire reports
June 18, 2014
PITTSBURGH — A Lancaster Township woman was arrested on Sunday after an incident with a city police officer that is now being investigated by city officials. Ariel Lawther, 19, was arrested and charged with suspicion of aggravated assault and resisting arrest after she allegedly assaulted a Pittsburgh police officer while attending Pridefest downtown, according to an arrest report. A 16-second video of the incident circulated on social media shows the police officer, Souroth Chatterji, using force against Lawther. In response to the video and the incident, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto held a news conference Monday, where it was announced that the arresting officer was suspended and that the incident is being investigated by the office of municipal investigation. Peduto said the officer entered the crowd to break up a fight started by a group of people who had come to protest the parade. The city is asking for any other videos of the incident to be brought forward to assist with the investigation, he said. Lawther, a former student at Seneca Valley High School, is also facing charges on an unrelated incident that occurred in November 2013. She was arrested by Lancaster Township police and charged with suspicion of simple assault and disorderly conduct. Lawther was unable to be reached for comment for this report. Chatterji said in a criminal complaint that he was trying to break up a fight when he grabbed the woman by the head and punched her in the side so he could handcuff her. The officer said the woman, Lawther fought with him and kicked him in the groin, resulting in charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest. She also was charged with simple assault for allegedly attacking a man the mayor said was with a group of people opposing the parade. Peduto said the episode began with “comments from some of the folks who had gathered to oppose the parade.” The Delta Foundation, a local group that advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, asked police to investigate the officer’s actions. Peduto said the city’s Office of Municipal Investigations, which reviews cases in which citizens accuse police of misconduct, is probing the encounter. The mayor declined to say whether he believed the officer used excessive force, saying all he had seen was the brief video clip. “We will not delay this investigation, but I will not make any judgment until such time that OMI has had the opportunity to fully investigate,” Peduto said. Eagle Staff Writer Joe Genco contributed to this report.