Pittsburgh vigil mourns Jim Rogers, victim of racist police terrorism

Photo: Liberation News collage of protests for justice for Jim Rogers

Pittsburgh city residents, local community activists, and family members held a vigil for Jim Rogers on Dec. 12 at the First United Methodist Church. Jim Rogers, 54, was an innocent, unhoused and unarmed Black man who was killed by the Pittsburgh police in October.

The crowd gathered in front of the church in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh to mourn the loss of Jim Rogers and join in prayer and condemnation of racist police violence. Rogers frequented the church and was described by many as a kind person and a talented artist. 

On Oct. 13, Jim Rogers was walking in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. He noticed a bike in a yard — neighbors say that the bike had been in the yard for many days, marked for sale, but the sign had recently come off. Rogers took the bike for a short test ride, returned it, and sat down to smoke a cigarette. While Rogers was riding the bike, a local resident called the police to report a “theft in progress,” according to Pittsburgh police. 

Police arrived and attempted to arrest Rogers. Video of the attempted arrest, which is not complete, shows an officer tasing Rogers while he lay in the street, Rogers rolling away, an officer continuing to tase him, even shoving him to the ground multiple times. Police allege that Rogers refused to comply with their arrest. 

While in custody, Rogers suffered cardiac arrest and died. Rogers’ family says that he was tased at least eight times. Eyewitness accounts say that EMS and police did nothing to offer Rogers medical treatment, although he was begging for his life. In fact, police told Pittsburgh medics on the scene that they “weren’t needed.”

The owner of the bike, who was interviewed after Rogers’ death, said they just wanted to get rid of it and would have given it to him for free.

One day after vigil, high-ranking cop retires

Just one day after the vigil, on Dec. 13, the highest-ranking officer on duty on the day of Rogers’ killing announced his retirement. The lieutenant, whose name has not been released, was on the scene with as many as six other officers, whom the department now says will face “firing or demotion” for their role in Rogers’ death.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said that any disciplinary action will be announced before he leaves office in January. Rogers’ family, activists, and Pittsburgh residents are still demanding more answers around Rogers’ killing, as well as accountability for all of the officers involved. 

It is certain that without the family and community efforts, and without the broader aftermath of the 2020 revolt against racism, the police would have just swept this case under the rug.

The lack of transparency continues, despite a single retirement. No officers’ names have yet been released, and no disciplinary action or charges against the officers have been announced. Like many other police killings, the police are now investigating themselves to see if they are “guilty” of any misconduct in Rogers’ killing. In this case, Pittsburgh city police turned the investigation over to Allegheny County police.

The church, family, and members of the community have since put together a list of demands for the city and police:

  • Release names of all the responding officers who participated in Rogers’ arrest
  • Release the unedited body camera footage
  • Release the autopsy findings
  • A thorough independent investigation that excludes any police department
  • Accountability of all police officers involved
  • Changes in police training related to de-escalation of non-violent incidents
  • Changes in police procedures to include behavioral health professionals in response to 911 calls
  • Changes in use of tasers

The killing of Jim Rogers is not an isolated incident in Pittsburgh. For activists and community members, names like Jonny Gammage and Antwon Rose are not forgotten. Jim Rogers’ family and their supporters in the community will continue to demand justice for his senseless killing.

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