A veteran Pittsburgh police officer is under internal investigation after he shocked a Downtown pizzeria employee with a Taser in an incident captured on video.
The city’s Office of Municipal Investigations and the Citizen Police Review Board both are investigating.
Officer Ronald Hough, a 23-year veteran who serves in the department’s motorcycle division, is accused of discharging his Taser at Dominic Reale, 46, of Robinson, inside Villa Reale Pizzeria and Restaurant on Smithfield Street about 7:20 p.m. Oct. 30.
Mr. Reale is the owner’s son and was working that day. He ate pizza with Officer Hough, a regular customer, before the incident, said Mr. Reale’s attorney, Joel Sansone.
The two were friendly in the context of the restaurant but did not spend time together outside the pizzeria, Mr. Sansone said.
Video surveillance shows Mr. Reale, wearing a shirt and apron, standing at a counter and talking with Officer Hough, who is in full uniform, for about three minutes before Mr. Reale walks away. The officer follows him around a counter, then circles back to the other side.
Mr. Reale then stands behind a woman sitting at the counter, putting her between himself and the officer. Mr. Sansone said his client jokingly told Officer Hough that the officer would have to shoot her to get to him.
“As a joke, he put this young woman between himself and the police officer, thinking it would dissuade this officer from foolish conduct,” Mr. Sansone said. “But when he saw it didn’t, he got out of her way and went behind the counter.”
In the video, which does not include sound, Mr. Reale then leans on the counter and talks with the woman. Officer Hough pulls out his Taser, raises it and fires over the woman’s shoulder, striking Mr. Reale in the chest from several feet away.
Mr. Reale falls, dropping a water bottle, and tries to pull the Taser probes out, the video shows. Officer Hough then walks up to Mr. Reale and pulls out the probes, helps the man to his feet and pats him off.
Officer Hough stays at the restaurant for at least another four minutes, the video shows, and Mr. Reale walks away and paces the restaurant.
The Flats on Carson at 1500 E.ast Carson St. on the South Side.
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“Mr. Reale is just standing there talking to this young woman and literally with zero provocation of any type or kind, this officer took out his Taser, discharged his Taser into my client’s chest within inches of the young lady,” Mr. Sansone said. He declined to say what Mr. Reale and Officer Hough said to each other in the moments leading up to the shooting.
Mr. Reale did not go to a hospital following the incident. He said Thursday that he was “totally shocked” when Officer Hough fired the Taser.