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

"You think you can get one of ours and we won't get one of yours?"


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.