Video shows woman tased multiple times in Allegheny County Jail following suicide attempt | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Video shows woman tased multiple times in Allegheny County Jail following suicide attempt

click to enlarge Video shows woman tased multiple times in Allegheny County Jail following suicide attempt
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Allegheny County Jail
Surveillance footage from May 31, 2019 released by an advocacy group reveals an Allegheny County Jail sergeant tasing Kim Andrews, an incarcerated woman held in the jail, multiple times inside an elevator with numerous other police officers present.

The silent three and a half minute footage was released by The Abolitionist Law Center, a criminal-justice reform group, and was initially reported by TribLive on July 23. In the video, Andrews — who was 20 years old when the video was taken — was hand-cuffed and being escorted by two correctional officers while in a hallway. One of the officers was Alyssia Tucker, who was the officer implicated in a letter sent to the U.S. Attorney’s office for tasing and using force against Andrews.

Then, seven more correctional officers join the scene and guide Andrews to an elevator. This is when Tucker pushes Andrews in the elevator, causing her to fall into a railing on the back wall of the elevator and hit her head. Tucker then tases Andrews, who was not showing signs of resistance, the first of three times while other officers bring in a restraint chair to place her in for nine hours, TribLive reported.

“This is not just about me – it's about everyone else. The jail cannot be trusted to reform itself,” Andrews said in a press release. “People need to know what’s really happening on the inside. Sharing this video is part of exposing the truth and growing the public outrage that is necessary to transform ACJ.”

The video can be viewed in full on TribLive’s website. The surveillance footage was obtained during a 2019 emergency petition filed by ALC to remove Andrews from solitary confinement where she spent more than 150 days during 2019 and 2020, according to a press release.

Andrews was initially placed in ACJ for resisting arrest in September 2018 after a fight, then again for theft of someone’s watch, phone, and withdrawing money from his bank card according to TribLive.

Andrews is diagnosed with multiple psychiatric disorders including PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, according to the Abolitionist Law Center. On the day Andrews was tased by Tucker, she was returning from hospital care after attempting suicide for the second time in nine days while in solitary confinement. Andrews attempted suicide a total of six times during her time in isolation, said ALC.

“You are punished for asking for help. Punishment is not mental health care or rehabilitation,” said Andrews in a press release.

Tucker wrote in her report to jail supervisors that Andrews was resistant and broke free from officers during the 2019 encounter. Bradford Hansen, the expert retained by Andrews’ attorney, said Tucker’s statements did not match the surveillance footage.

The footage has been submitted to the United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania for investigation.

A spokeswoman from Allegheny County told TribLive that ACJ Warden Orlando Harper nor Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald could comment due to pending litigation.

On July 19, ALC and Andrews sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Stephen Kaufman that contained a request to hold Tucker accountable for her actions against Andrews, and call for an investigation on the widespread systemic practices of excessive force under the authority of Harper.

In 2020, Harper faced a class-action lawsuit filed by ALC on behalf of five inmates with mental illness diagnoses at ACJ that alleged the jail is “rife with systemic deficiencies that deprive people with psychiatric disabilities of necessary care, and, indeed, make their conditions worse.” The lawsuit notes that “jail staff have used tasers, pepper spray, and restraint chains for inmates requesting mental health care.”

After Andrews was repeatedly tased, she was left in a restraint chair for nine hours according to TribLive.

ACJ correctional officers used restraint chairs 339 times in 2019, which is about four times more per capita than all other jails in the state, according to a lawsuit filed in 2020. Andrews said to Public Source that she was placed in a restraint chair about “half a dozen times” during her time at the jail.

As the video of Andrews and her experience at ACJ is now accessible to all, she hopes it will end the “impunity of the jail administration.”

“They want you to be afraid and they want you to feel that fear, and that’s what I felt,” Andrews said. “There is a prevailing culture inside the jail that the people who ‘watch over you’ can simply commit crimes against inmates with no consequences.”