PENN HILLS, PA – Following an outcry by activists, as well as accusations of murder, an officer who returned fire after a suspect shot at him in 2019 has been fired from a new post in the Penn Hills, PA, Police Department.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which reported on a press release from Allegheny County Police, Officer Robert Gowans was on duty in Wilkinsburg, PA in the early hours of December 22, 2019 when a 911 call came in about a man with a silver handgun.
The caller reported that the suspect had “pulled a gun.” Two responding officers located a subject who matched the suspect’s description, and the caller verified to the 911 operator that the offers were approaching the right man.
Disobeying an order to “‘take his hands out of his pockets’ and stop,” the suspect fled as the officers stepped out of their car.
Witnesses have confirmed that, during a subsequent foot chase, the suspect fired one round at Officer Robert Gowans, who returned fire. The officer reportedly struck the suspect seven times.
— KDKA (@KDKA) May 17, 2021
The Post-Gazette reports that paramedics responded, but the suspect, later identified as Romir Talley, 24, was declared dead at the scene.
Police recovered a silver revolver with one spent cartridge below the hammer at the scene.
Body cams and dash cams were not in use by Wilkinsburg PD at that time.
On December 23, 2019, Officer Gowans was placed on administrative leave, but he eventually returned to patrol duty sometime in 2020.
Following the shooting, family members and community groups called into question the police account of the incident, with Talley’s grandmother telling reporters:
“I know one thing, he didn’t shoot at a cop and they need to get that straight. They keep saying he shot at the cop, my grandson wouldn’t shoot nobody.”
Social media campaigns and rallies called for “Justice for Romir Talley.”
In August of 2020, Talley’s family publicly demanded that the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office file murder charges against Gowans. They also called for his termination from the police department.
The family of a man who was shot and killed by a Wilkinsburg police officer last year has several demands.
— Michele Newell (@micheleWPXI) August 11, 2020
The family also filed a federal lawsuit against the borough of Wilkinsburg, Officer Robert Gowans, police Chief Ophelia Coleman, and Mayor Marita Garrett, claiming that the police chased the wrong person.
The suit also claims that Gowans lied to investigators.
In addition, it states that the lack of body cams has created “an environment where officers such as Officer Gowans, as a pattern and practice, can act with impunity and engage in unconstitutional and deliberately indifferent acts knowing that the true facts of the officer’s actions will not be discovered by law enforcement.”
An anonymous source reports that Gowans was at some point removed from patrol and placed on desk duty while still at Wilkinsburg PD, but he still remained in good standing and was not charged with any wrongdoing.
The Pittsburgh City Paper reports that “at some point,” Gowans no longer worked for Wilkinsburg PD.
Community members and activists responded in May to Gowans’ new position at Penn Hills PD by organizing on social media to force Gowans’ firing, with some claiming that Gowans was guilty of murder and that Talley was unarmed.
One such activist group is Take Action Mon Valley (TAMV), which, according to Pittsburgh news station 90.5 WESA, led the charge to demand the officer’s removal.
— Take Action Mon Valley (@TAMVMonValley) May 17, 2021
TAMV echoed on its Facebook page the family’s assertion that the police pursued the wrong man. The organization also posted a call to action, complete with community leaders’ contact information, writing:
“We demand the immediate termination of Patrol Officer Robert Gowans from the Penn Hills Police Department and that the Allegheny County DA file charges against him for shooting & killing Romir Talley.
“A police department hiring an officer under investigation for killing a Black man can’t go unchecked. This is a threat to the community at large.
“We are asking people to contact Penn Hills leaders, Officer Gowans and the Allegheny County DA’s office to demand that he be terminated immediately.”
TAMV also organized and held a protest rally outside the Penn Hills Municipal Building.
Photos from the rally where it was announced by Deputy Mayor Cathy Sapp that Robert Gowans is no longer employed by Penn Hills Municipality.
— Jared Wickerham (@WickPhoto) May 17, 2021
Activists also shared messages on social media with the phone number for Mayor Pauline Calabrese, pointing out that Calabrese was running for a judge position.
One message read:
“Penn Hills Police Department’s Newest Killer Cop: Robert Gowans!
“Do you want a judge who hires killers to determine your fate?
“Do you want to know why Robert Gowans was promoted to Penn Hills PD w/out charges for the murder of 24 yr old, UNARMED Romir Talley?
“Call & Ask Her Why.”
Such pressure from activists and community members resulted in an emergency meeting on May 17, called by Penn Hills Deputy Mayor Cathy Sapp, who also happened to be seeking a council seat in an upcoming Penn Hills primary election.
At the meeting, Penn Hills council members handed down their decision to fire Gowans. There is no information at this time on whether Gowans interacted with the council prior to the firing decision.
Deputy Mayor Sapp told the Pittsburgh City Paper after the firing:
“We feel relief because our residents no longer have to worry.”
Activist and TAMV leader Fawn Walker-Montgomery told WESA:
“The gall of these people — to hire [Gowans] knowing that he has an open investigation for shooting and killing a Black man …
“If we didn’t say anything, [Gowans] would still be here. He’d still have his job.”
Kenneth Huston, President of the Pennsylvania NAACP, stated to WPXI News:
“To the mayor’s credit, she did not know … that they were in the process of truly bringing him in.
“It’s an outrage.”
“We got to stop allowing these guys to go from police force to police force with these wayward behaviors.
“He’s under investigation. Right now….
“What are you doing? Like, who was not thinking when this man was hired?”
BREAKING: Cop under investigation for shooting of Romir Talley hired, then fired from Penn Hills policehttps://t.co/Y0ynts05dD
— Pittsburgh City Paper (@PGHCityPaper) May 17, 2021
Gowans’ future is quite uncertain at this point.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala has still not decided whether or not to charge him for Talley’s death.
Furthermore, activists and members of the local community have made it clear that they have already tried and convicted him, and that any future employment as a police officer in Pennsylvania will be met with vocal and organized resistance.
Protestors told WPXI News that if another police department hires Gowan, they are planning to:
“[R]ally, call and email every department in the state to keep him from holding a badge ever again.”
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Police shred PA Democrat governor after he repeats myth of systemic racism by cops in Juneteenth proclamation
The following article contains editorial content written by a retired Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.
May 18, 2021
HARRISBURG, PA- In yet another slam on police by a Democrat politician, the latest insult comes to us from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Wolf just slapped police in his state squarely across the face in a letter to state employees regarding the newest excuse for municipal employees to get a day off, the so-called “Juneteenth holiday,” ABC-27 News reported.
Wolf wrote to employees designating Friday, June 18 as a special holiday for state employees. This was done of course because the actual date of “Juneteenth” is the 19th of June, which falls on a Saturday this year. Since state employees must get a day off to “celebrate,” Wolf moved the “official” date back to the 18th.
Within his letter, he called attention to the day, touting the “progress” the country has made as a nation toward equality and justice for all citizens.
Then, he went straight off the rails, speaking to “the continued death of African Americans at the hands of police,” and then transitioned to attacks against Asian Americans, which he conveniently failed to note occur mostly at the hands of the aforementioned African Americans.
“Juneteenth is a celebration of the progress we have made as a nation towards equality and justice for all. Sadly, the continued death of African Americans at the hands of police and rise in violent attacks against Asian Americans are painful reminders that racism and intolerance are still with us today. This Juneteenth we have an opportunity to unite against injustice and create lasting change that will make Pennsylvania and our nation a better place for everyone.”
Where to start? How about Philadelphia? According to Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, 103 people have been murdered so far in the “City of Brotherly Love” thus far in 2021, an increase of more than 30 percent over last year, same time period.
“Only” 412 people have been shot citywide this year, according to the New York Post.
Out of those 103 homicide victims, 13 were children, 12 fatally shot. But hey, Philadelphia isn’t the biggest craphole in the country. That honor still belongs to Chicago. A majority of those killed have been blacks killed by other blacks.
Not one unarmed black man has been killed by a Philadelphia police officer so far in 2021.
But that’s ok. District Attorney Larry Krasner is up for re-election this week. His claim to fame? Pretty much releasing everyone who’s arrested in the city, including those charged with gun crimes. It’s pretty easy to figure out why crime is out of control in Philadelphia.
It’s easy for Wolf to blame police for the ills of the black community. That’s become something of a sport among Democrats, with Joe Biden taking the occasion last week of National Police Week and Law Officer’s Memorial Day to slam police officers as being racist mercenaries intent on destroying the black race. Not in so many words, of course but the point was made…and taken by police officers across the country.
In response to Wolf’s brain-dead comment on Monday, David Kennedy, President of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association blasted Wolf in a statement, saying Wolf had insulted his officers in the missive he wrote.
Kennedy noted that Wolf had cherry-picked a few examples of so-called police brutality to insult all police officers across the Keystone State.
“Let me be clear: Pennsylvania state troopers support the Juneteenth holiday. But for Gov. Wolf to use his platform to further push a false narrative that police are racist murderers is nothing less than the worst kind of political pandering. It only serves to further divide our nation at the expense of officers who already work incredibly dangerous jobs,” Kennedy wrote in his response.
“And to do it during National Police Week is nothing less than symbolically spitting in the faces of all police officer and troopers who have given everything. And for the families, this insult rips open a fresh wound.”
Kennedy also slammed Wolf for failing to provide troopers with PPE during the pandemic, being told they weren’t available even while there was a growing stockpile of masks at the Farm Show Complex.
Kennedy also slammed Wolf in March, calling on the feckless governor to prioritize state troopers and other first responders for coronavirus vaccinations, Fox News reported.
“Gov. Wolf, you owe all law enforcement officers, troopers and their loved ones an apology. A real apology,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy also took aim at the explosion of violent crime in Philadelphia, noting the above statistics.
He also noted that it is projected police will probably make 3,000 arrests for illegal guns, however people are not likely to be convicted. He said Philadelphia police refer to it as a “revolving door” for repeat gun offenders.
When speaking of unnecessary deaths, especially caused by incompetence, Wolf should look in the mirror. According to CBS Philly, nursing home deaths from COVID-19 in Pennsylvania accounted for over 65% of the total deaths. Just as New York did, Pennsylvania put COVID-positive patients into nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Rachel Levine, who used to be a guy famously removed her/his mother from a nursing home and into a private facility just prior to COVID-positive patients being placed in nursing homes. Levine was rewarded for that by receiving an appointment in the Biden administration. Guess crime pays.
Wolf’s statement is just another in a long line of pandering Democrats throwing police under the bus to perpetuate the false narrative of police shooting unarmed black men indiscriminately, despite clear and overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
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