Pittsburgh cop investigated for punching woman at gay pride event

June 16 Mon Jun 16, 2014 4:13pm EDT

June 16 (Reuters) - A Pittsburgh police officer was under investigation after video surfaced of him apparently punching a woman during an arrest at the weekend gay pride march, Mayor William Peduto said Monday.

Moments into the shaky 15-second video clip that was shared widely on social media, Souroth Chatterji, a male police officer, can be seen dragging Ariel Lawther, 19, who attended the march, down by the hair and punching her in her torso.

Lawther was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. A criminal complaint said Lawther had been in an altercation with an anti-gay protester, and then began hitting the officer as he tried to break up the fight, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

"I just want to reassure the people that this is a new day, we won't look the other way when incidents like this happen," Peduto said at a press conference on Monday.

He said that the officer would be on desk duty for 30 days while the incident was investigated by the city's Office of Municipal Investigations.

"And we want to assure everybody, and that includes both the public and the police, that we want fairness," the mayor said.

Delta Foundation, a gay rights group that organized the march, said in a statement that it welcomed the mayor's investigation and said that Lawther had been released from jail on bail. Lawther could not be reached for comment and it was not immediately clear if she had a lawyer.

Sonya Toler, a spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh police department, said the city was "investigating the use of force" in Lawther's arrest, but said the investigation prevented her from commenting further. (Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Grant McCool)

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