WATCH: Pittsburgh cop repeatedly punches gay teen at pride parade

The teen was allegedly verbally defending herself from homophobic protesters when the incident occurred.
By Matt Bradwell  |  June 16, 2014 at 3:21 PM
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PITTSBURGH, June 16 (UPI) -- Police officials in Pittsburgh have confined officer Souroth Chatterji to desk work after video surfaced of him repeatedly punching a lesbian teen during the city's official LGBT PrideFest.

The video, captured June 15, shows Chatterji grab 19-year-old Ariel Lawther by her neck before repeatedly punching her. Witnesses say Lawther was arguing with anti-gay protesters, who were shouting homophobic rhetoric, when Chatteri attempted to break up the argument.

"She was saying that being gay is not a sin and that she was a lesbian and proud of it, and that she wasn't going to hell for it," witness Autumn Huntera told the Gaily Grind.

Huntera recorded the incident and posted it to her Facebook page, where it caught the attention of the media, activists and city officials.

"He grabbed her by the back of her neck, pulled her over, dropped her on the ground, pulled her up by her hair, and said 'Do you want me to hit you?' When she didn't respond, he hit her in stomach area about four or five times repeatedly. After everyone yelled at him, he handcuffed her, put her against a wall. She was crying against a wall next to her 'attacker' while her fiancée was panicking trying to find someone who recorded it."

The video does not show the entire interaction between Chatterji and the young woman, and Chatterji's official report differs greatly from Huntera's account. "Lawther began to push and strike me in the chest with her hands and groin area with her legs," he wrote.

"Due to the proximity of Lawther to myself and the crowd, I tried to push Lawther by her shoulders."

Chatterji has been pulled from street patrol while the incident is reviewed.

"I just want to reassure the people that this is a new day," Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said. "We won't look the other way when incidents like this happen." The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh, a local LGBT advocacy group, will be working with city officials on their review, saying in a statement, "Following an extremely successful Pittsburgh Pride 2014 which included record crowds all weekend, the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh was concerned to learn about a video of an incident between a City of Pittsburgh Police officer and an attendee."

"We are working closely with Mayor Bill Peduto's office, Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar, Acting Chief Regina McDonald, the Office of Municipal Investigations, and the Citizens Police Review Board to review the incident and take appropriate action."

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