Lawsuit Alleges That Pittsburgh SWAT Team Engaged in Gang-Style Retaliation

A Pittsburgh woman filed a lawsuit earlier this month alleging that members of the Pittsburgh Police Department used a SWAT team to exact revenge against her husband, William Moreno, after he assaulted and injured an off-duty officer at a South Side bar. 

As with every lawsuit, this one should be taken with a grain of salt. While the AlterNet story currently circulating doesn't mention it, there's security video from a bar that shows Moreno attacking Officer Michael Murray, and it's pretty bad. According to local news, Moreno fractured Murray's skull and broke his leg, so there's no question he needed to be arrested. 

But if what the Moreno family alleges in their lawsuit is true, the Pittsburgh PD SWAT team essentially served the warrant for Moreno's arrest as if they were a gang striking back at rivals:  

In the early morning hours of December 7, 2010, William Moreno, husband of plaintiff Georgeia Moreno, was involved in an altercation with an ununiformed, off-duty police officer at a local veterans club. The off-duty officer was highly intoxicated. William Moreno was not arrested. He left the scene and returned home.

Defendant Morosetti obtained a warrant for the arrest of William Moreno and a warrant to search the plaintiff’s residence for the purpose of locating William Moreno. Defendant Morosetti had been informed that Moreno would voluntarily turn himself in to the police. Nevertheless, Defendant Tersak approved the use of the SWAT team to carry out the warrants. Defendant Englehardt planned the SWAT operation, including determining the number of officers to use to invade Plaintiffs’ home.

On December 7, 2010, at approximately 7:00 p.m., William Moreno, plaintiff Georgeia Moreno, and her step-father plaintiff Mark Staymates were in the family’s living room watching television. Plaintiff Darlene Staymates, who was ill, was asleep in an upstairs bedroom. Minor plaintiff Briseis Moreno was playing with her toys in another upstairs bedroom. Minor plaintiff Trentino Moreno was taking a shower in the upstairs bathroom. Georgeia Moreno’s adult son was in the kitchen.

Suddenly and without warning, plaintiffs heard a loud explosion followed by a series of bright lights, “as if grenades were going off.”  

Twenty-three (23) officers dressed in full swat gear including helmets and facemasks broke in the front and back doors to Plaintiffs’ residence. The officers stormed through the broken doors and entered the living area pointing assault rifles at plaintiffs and shouting obscenities.  

Defendant officers did not announce themselves and plaintiffs were unaware that the men invading their house were police officers. The defendant officers knew William Moreno by sight and Mr. Moreno produced his I.D. He was immediately apprehended, handcuffed and removed to the kitchen.  

After Mr. Moreno was secured, plaintiffs Georgeia Moreno and Mark Staymates were thrown to the floor, and kicked repeatedly. The officers placed their assault rifles against these plaintiffs' faces and their feet on their backs shouting “put your hands behind your back.”

Although they complied with the officers’ orders, both plaintiffs were forcibly handcuffed. Plaintiff Mark Staymates was handcuffed by Defendant Sarver. He sustained injury to his shoulder due to the handcuffing.

Georgeia Moreno’s adult son was handcuffed and forced to lie in broken glass on the kitchen floor.

Ms. Moreno pleaded with the officers repeatedly that she had young children in the house.

At least one of the officers stated, “You think you can get one of ours and we won’t get one of yours?”  

After William Moreno, Georgeia Moreno, Billy Moreno and Mark Staymates were handcuffed, some of the officers proceeded to the upstairs of the home while others roamed the first floor and basement, shouting obscenities, terrorizing plaintiffs and destroying the house and plaintiffs’ personal property.  

Ten-year-old Trentino Moreno was taking a shower. Defendant Burtt dragged him forcibly from the bathtub causing significant injury to both ankles.

He was then made to stand naked in the hallway with his sister. Eventually he was permitted to put on a shirt and sit on a bed with his grandmother and young sister while the officers continued their raid.

After all of the individuals in the house had been secured and William Moreno had been identified, Defendants Reddy, Epler, Nicholas, Friburger, Gorham, Novakowski, Kolarac, Hairston and Marabello entered the residence, searched plaintiff’s home and questioned plaintiffs.  

Defendant Reddy told Ms. Moreno that she was lucky they found her husband at home because otherwise they would have killed him.

If one of the SWAT officers really said, “You think you can get one of ours and we won’t get one of yours?," and if the officers really destroyed the family's home and terrorized the children therein after having secured a suspect who volunteered himself for arrest, then they are no better than criminals. 

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  • John||

    Sounds to me like the guy beat the fuck out of some drunk trouble making cop. He should have gotten a medal not arrested. And I am sure this will end up costing the taxpayers a few hundred K to make it go away. Scumbags.

  • Libertymike||

    John, this is what I was talking about the other day - the number and the intensity of these incidents occurring today compared to 1975.

    Just admit it.

  • ||

    Oh BS. We just have better information distribution today. They may not have used SWAT back in the day, but bet your ass this eye for an eye shit goes back forever.

  • Libertymike||

    There is no question that those who would join a state sponsored military or paramilitary organization have always been the utter dregs of humanity forever, yes.

    There is also no question that cops have been pusillanimous bullies forever, yes.

    But, just what is it that is BS about my post?

    Were there 80,000 plus SWAT RAIDS per year in 1980? Note I said RAIDS.

    What percentage of the police departments in the US were equipped with military garb, gear and weaponry in 1975? And compared to today?

    How about comparing the differing levels of incentives for cops to conduct the SWAT RAIDS, ransack person and property, murder those who were and were not the targets of arrest warrants, murder dogs and murder the wrong parties, including 7 year old girls and snatching 10 year old boys from bath tubs and throwing them to glass strewn floors between 1975 and now?

    Yeah, the person who asserts that the asset forfeiture, money laundering and terrorism incentives for cops today are far higher than they were in 1975 is bull shitting, at least according to you.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    "There is no question that those who would join a state sponsored military or paramilitary organization have always been the utter dregs of humanity forever, yes."

    Excuse me? Please rephrase that. As written it asserts that those who volunteered for the military in time of war are "the utter dregs of humanity". And that, sir, is unmitigated hogwash. Now, I have known military personnel from peacetime who were also fine people, though you may doubt it. But the assertion that ANYBODY who ever voluntarily joined the military is trash simply cannot stand.

  • Libertymike||

    How were they paid? Voluntary contributions?

  • Paul.||

    Yeah, but it would have been a couple of plainclothes waiting outside Moreno's house. When Moreno went for a 10:30pm pack of ciggies at the corner store, they would have grabbed him roughed him up, then dragged him to the station house.

    There is a difference. That was retaliation that was corrupt and on the QT, this is retaliation under the cover of proper procedure.

  • CE||

    Plus every officer who assaulted an innocent family member after they had already arrested the target of the raid should be facing charges.

  • Inigo M.||

    Well, it was after 1975, more like the early 80s, but there was a famous case in Philadelphia where the cops, in an attempt to arrest some members of a Black Panther-type group, actually used helicopters to bomb an apartment building in downtown Philly and ended up burning down the entire block.

  • Libertymike||

    Yes, that was in 1985.

  • califernian||

    if the officers really destroyed the family's home and terrorized the children therein after having secured a suspect who volunteered himself for arrest, then they are no better than a criminal gang striking back against its rivals.

    Uh.... that's what cops are generally.

  • croaker||

    Yup. The difference between a police department and a street gang is the dental plan.

  • squarooticus||

    Dental plan...

  • Mendelism||

    Lisa needs braces!

  • GPZsug||

    I don't doubt there's some embellishment at work here, but anyone who's interested in maintaining a peaceful society should be outraged that the cops didn't send two fully uniformed officers in a marked car to calmly knock on the door. Might Moreno have run? Sure. So what? Is he going to flee to Sheremetevo? Might he have reacted violently? Possibly. But the idea that a SWAT team is less likely to injure innocent bystanders is absurd.

  • CE||

    What embellishment? This is standard operating procedure now for an arrest. Send in a SWAT team, shoot the dogs, shove the kids to the floor with a boot on their neck and a rifle in their ribs, handcuff everyone, curse repeatedly and trash the place.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    "Ten-year-old Trentino Moreno was taking a shower. Defendant Burtt dragged him forcibly from the bathtub causing significant injury to both ankles.

    He was then made to stand naked in the hallway with his sister. Eventually he was permitted to put on a shirt and sit on a bed with his grandmother and young sister while the officers continued their raid."

    Big tough fucking pig, dragging a naked ten-year-old out of the shower. Good thing the kid didn't have a water pistol in there!

  • ||

    I'd sue that cop for child molestation.

  • croaker||

    Sue? Arrest. Make the turd a level 3 sex offender, assuming he survives the prison term.

  • hotsy totsy||

    It was a violent assault and the kid was naked. That's violent sexual assault of a child, and a much worse crime than some 21 year old having consensual sex with a 16 year old.

    Prison time, and ankle bracelets when he gets out. Plus register as a violent sex offender.

    Maybe next time these "heroes" will think twice.

  • Alan||

    For the first time ever, the sex offender registry seems like it could be useful.

  • Paul.||

    Big tough fucking pig, dragging a naked ten-year-old out of the shower. Good thing the kid didn't have a water pistol in there!

    Kid learned a valuable lesson that day. You don't fuck with the Stasi.

  • Inigo M.||

    The kid didn't fuck with anyone! For all we know, the kid was not even aware his father had been involved in any sort of fight.

    As someone pointed out above, in the old days, the cops would have arrested the dad who beat up the off-duty cop, and most likely would have roughed him up on the way to the station house. To brutalize and terrorize a bunch of women and young children who are innocent bystanders is beyond the pale, even for these so-called Stasi.

  • fish_remote||

    Well at least we can feel comforted by the knowledge that these officers acted to the highest professional standards during the execution of this raid. Thank you Justice Scalia!

  • GILMORE||

    Typical Reasonoid anti-cop bigotry again. Sigh.

    /Dunphy

    but in all sincerity = Why is there absolutely no public discussion about the utter disconnect between police warrant-execution and the actual crime the guy is a suspect of? Everyone gets the Terrorist treatment, a la Kokesh. I know the whole 'militarization' thing is one reason... but it just seems completely indefensible. The guy committed assault. Is there some rational case for why you need battering rams and flashbangs and body armor to arrest a guy...for throwing some punches? Calling Dunphy!? Rationalize away!

    I'm sure he'll tut-tut it and call it excessive and blah blah blah but of course that's not the important point, its that cops are so mistreated and Reasonoids are bigoted and yadda yadda yadda

  • John||

    Yes, every warrant is now served with the same force that was once reserved for murderers and bank robbers.

  • GPZsug||

    Force that is generally unnecessary even for murderers and bank robbers. One has to be creative to come up with a situation in which the police can't calmly approach someone on a sidewalk for an arrest. If they've taken hostages, then sure, send in the SWAT team. Otherwise, what's the worst that can happen? They refuse to leave their apartment where they can't hurt anyone?

  • Paul.||

    Yes, every warrant is now served with the same force that was once reserved for murderers and bank robbers. a guy wearing a gas mask holed up in an apartment with hostages.

    Fixed.

  • Meerkatx||

    Most murderers and bank robbers can be served their warrant and arrested while walking into their home or getting out of their car at the grocery store or putting their trash at the corner or walking to the local liquor store or crack house by a couple cops with possibly a backup car nearby.

    Instead we get East Germany style tactics.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Is this "I'm Ashamed to be an American" day?

  • ||

    For Merkin, that's just about EVERY day.

  • ||

    Except remove the "an".

  • fish_remote||

    23 officers? Wow!

    Pittsburgh cops must suck!

  • croaker||

    Not only do they suck, they're cowards.

  • Paul.||

    And think of the emotional stress they suffered.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    The WSJ had a "Warrior Cop" excerpt the other day; I wonder how many people even bothered to read it.

  • fish_remote||

    The WSJ had a "Warrior Cop" excerpt the other day; I wonder how many people even bothered to read it.

    Well there was all that talk about Weiners weiner.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Is there some rational case for why you need battering rams and flashbangs and body armor to arrest a guy

    Baboon social rankings are based on dominance and submission. Anyone who is insufficiently submissive is a threat.

  • croaker||

    That's why cops kill dogs.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    ARF! GRRRR! Blam!

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Thank god the guns decided not to discharge.

  • MasterDarque||

    lol

  • ||

    TOTALITY OF CIRCS

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    "....you get one of OURS........we....get one of YOURS.....". that says it all.....

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    If one of the SWAT officers really said, “You think you can get one of ours and we won’t get one of yours?," and if the officers really destroyed the family's home and terrorized the children therein after having secured a suspect who volunteered himself for arrest, then they are no better than criminals.

  • ΘJΘʃ de águila||

    Ugly criminals of the worst kind.

  • MappRapp||

    I dont think Joe Jimmy is gonna be happy about this.

    www.Only-Anon.tk

  • Malvolio||

    They're considerable worse than criminals. Criminals commit their crimes pro bono suum. Cops commit crimes then bill me for their time!

  • Alan||

    +1

  • My Dog Bites Better Than Yours||

    Yet another example of why cops should have a camera on their body armor at all times. This can be resolved, one way or the other, in a couple of hours of lookng at the videos.
    Of course, that would take the fun out of of being on the home invasion gang.

  • PH2050||

    "Yet another example of why cops should have a camera on their body armor at all times."

    Exactly. CopCam©

  • Alan||

    Except that the cops dragged a naked 10 year out of the shower, so anyone who looked at the video would be guilty of viewing child pornography, put in jail for a long time, and then put on the registry and be unable to hold a job ever again.

    Think, man, think.

  • Meerkatx||

    This is the exact type of situation RICO laws need to be applied to our law enforcement agencies. It's not like this type of behavior happens in a tiny bubble in the agencies.

  • Q72||

    A Pittsburgh cop jumped on the hood of a car and unloaded a mag into a man and his mother a couple months ago. I hate our cops

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