Metro Beat: Hundreds mourn garbage collector killed in car

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PITTSBURGH (AP) – City officials joined several hundred relatives and friends to mourn a Pittsburgh garbage collector gunned down as he began his shift earlier this month.
Mayor Bill Peduto told relatives of 29-year-old Omar Hodges that he wished he could turn back the clock and give them one last dinner with their beloved stepfather, brother and son.
He told city refuse workers at Tuesday’s funeral service at Covenant Church of Pittsburgh in Wilkinsburg that he wished he could erase their memories of the Oct. 13 shooting.
Mourners remembered Hodges as a generous friend who worked three jobs to take care of his family.
Authorities said he was shot as he waited in a car for his crew to pick him up for work. Police have not announced the arrests of any suspects.
Man acquitted in chase that drew police gunfire
PITTSBURGH (AP) – A Pittsburgh-area man has been acquitted of all but two minor charges for leading police on a chase that drew gunfire, wounding the man’s mother.
Donald Burris Jr.’s mother, Lena Davenport, survived a head wound, but has a lawsuit pending against Pittsburgh and Homestead police in the January 2013 chase.
Allegheny County prosecutors say Burris ran a red light then smashed into cars about 2 a.m. before officers fired several shots into his car.
Burris and his mother weren’t armed and the incident prompted then-Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper to issue an order that officers were not to fire on moving vehicles unless the occupants fired first.
Burris, a 33-year-old Carnegie man, was wounded in the arm. A jury Wednesday acquitted him of aggravated assault and more serious charges, convicting him only on charges of fleeing police.
Lawyer: No charges against Pounceys in club fight
MIAMI (AP) – The attorney for NFL offensive linemen Mike and Maurkice Pouncey says no charges will filed against the twin brothers stemming from a July altercation at a Miami Beach nightclub.
Lawyer Jeffrey Ostrow said in an email Wednesday that Miami-Dade County prosecutors informed him the brothers won’t be charged in the fight at Cameo nightclub.
Maurkice Pouncey plays center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Mike Pouncey plays center and guard for the Miami Dolphins. Both played college football at Florida.
Three people have sued the Pounceys for civil damages, claiming they harassed one person with homophobic remarks and physically attacked him. Another person claims she was beaten when she tried to intervene.
Ostrow says the claims are false and are being made solely for attempted financial gain.
Gay pride parade arrestee pleads to tickets, fined

PITTSBURGH (AP) – A woman who was punched in the side as she was arrested at Pittsburgh’s gay pride parade pleaded guilty Wednesday to harassment citations after prosecutors dropped more serious charges that she assaulted the officer and a protester.
Ariel Lawther, 19, of Harmony, was fined $300 and sentenced to time served – the several hours she spent locked up after her June 15 arrest – in a negotiated plea that ends the criminal case against her, defense attorney Komron Maknoon said.
Lawther’s arrest made headlines when a 10-second video posted by a friend on Facebook showed the officer pulling Lawther’s hair and punching her in the side as he tried to subdue her. City officials have since determined the officer didn’t use excessive force in controlling Lawther, but her civil rights attorney, Steve Barth, said she may still file a lawsuit.
Barth wants to subpoena video police have of the incident before making that decision. The video comes from surveillance cameras at a bank and another business nearby, and from a private photographer who chronicled the event, Barth said.
“I’m doing my investigating before I file a lawsuit,” Barth said. “I want to see the video. There’s supposed to be a video that shows everything. It could nip everything in the bud.”
Lawther had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday on charges of aggravated assault for allegedly fighting with Officer Souroth Chatterji and kicking him in the groin as he tried to handcuff her. She was also charged with simple assault because the officer said she pushed and cursed at a preacher who was protesting.
But those charges, along with lesser charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, were dropped by prosecutors in exchange for pleas to two harassment citations, which are much like traffic tickets.
“This was an appropriate resolution in light of the evidence and all parties involved were in agreement,” Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. said in a statement. The prosecutor noted he agreed the officer “acted reasonably and within his duties as a police officer in taking action to diffuse a confrontation.”
Maknoon called the plea deal “a very significant reduction.”
“Which is the difference between (going to) jail and a few hundred dollars,” he said.
Lawther last month pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $300 to resolve charges stemming from an unrelated incident involving her mother in neighboring Butler County.
Police say the women fought last November with Lawther blackening the eye of her mother, who was fined $100 after also pleading guilty to disorderly conduct. Simple assault charges were dropped against both women.
New commissary opens in southwestern Pennsylvania
CORAOPOLIS, Pa. (AP) – A new commissary has opened to serve about 170,000 active, retired and reserve military members and their families within a 100-mile radius of Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh Area Commissary – a $15 million supermarket – opened Tuesday, next to the Moon Township Exchange, a new department store for military members and their families that opened in August.
Both are located along Interstate 376 about 10 miles west of Pittsburgh.
The new stores ensure Pittsburgh-area military families won’t have to drive to Dayton, Ohio or Carlisle, the next closest locations for similar facilities.
Planning for the new facilities began when the Defense Department announced in 2005 it was closing the Charles E. Kelly Military Support Facility in Oakdale. Lawmakers kept the commissary and post exchange there open until the new facilities were built.
Corbett, Wolf disagree over municipal gun-law bill
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial candidates disagreed Tuesday over legislation backed by the National Rifle Association that could unleash fresh court challenges over gun control laws in the state’s largest cities.
The bill, which Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s office said he will sign, would essentially allow the NRA, or any “member organization,” to stand in for any member who is “adversely affected” by a local gun control ordinance that exceeds the reach of state firearms laws. The challenger also could seek monetary damages and legal fees.
A Corbett spokesman said the governor supports expanding the definition of legal standing in lawsuits against local governments over their gun laws, and he noted that courts have been clear that local ordinances cannot exceed state firearms laws.
Democrat Tom Wolf, Corbett’s challenger, opposes the idea of allowing “outside organizations to sue towns and cities that enact local ordinances.”
Once Corbett signs the bill, the provisions will take effect in 60 days. The Republican-controlled House and Senate each passed the bill in recent days by comfortable margins over the protests of most urban Democrats and some suburban Republicans.
Neither the NRA nor gun-control advocacy group CeaseFirePA could immediately cite a similar law in another state. As a leading example of a local gun law that could be illegal, CeaseFirePA assembled a list of 30 municipalities that require gun owners to report to law enforcement if a gun they own is lost or stolen.
The measures are designed to crack down on straw purchases of firearms for people who intend to use them in crimes, and many of Pennsylvania’s biggest cities have such laws on the books: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Reading, Harrisburg and Lancaster.
While courts have struck down other laws – such as bans in Philadelphia on selling assault weapons or buying more than one handgun a month – the NRA complains that legal challenges to the “lost and stolen” reporting laws were unsuccessful because courts said the plaintiffs could not prove they were harmed by it.
NRA spokesman John Hohenwarter said the organization hopes the dozens of municipalities with potentially illegal gun laws on their books will rescind the ordinances.
Bur the NRA doesn’t have a plan to immediately sue every municipality with such a law, Hohenwarter said.
“Talk to me in 60 days and we’ll see how many are left,” Hohenwarter said.
Shira Goodman of CeasefirePA said some municipalities are considering rescinding their ordinances to avoid a lawsuit, while others are considering standing up to a legal challenge. Her organization is considering suing over the constitutionality of the law, both on whether it violated separation of powers and transparency rules meant to prevent the passage of special legislation.
On Oct. 15, the provision on suing over local gun laws was amended into a bill that had begun as legislation meant to prevent the theft of secondary metals, such as wires or cables. Within five days, it had passed both chambers.
 

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