An undercover operation at a Pittsburgh bar took a violent turn early Friday after the detectives' covers were blown and a fist fight broke out between the officers and members of a Pagan motorcycle club, police said.
Police and four alleged members of the motorcycle club threw punches and screamed obscenities during the wild brawl—that left one suspect with two black and blue eyes and bruises on his forehead—before a sergeant released pepper spray on both the undercover officers and club members in an effort to subdue them, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The fight broke out after four Pittsburgh narcotics detectives had come into Kopy's Bar as part of an undercover investigation after receiving reports the bar may have been a site for dealing drugs. Their cover was blown, however, when a customer in the bar was heard saying, "Those guys are cops," the local paper reports.
Police allege in a complaint obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the club members began to stare at them and one of the detectives walked over to the club members and told them they were, in fact, police officers but "were not there to infringe on anyone's good time."
Initially, the interaction was amicable and the detectives even reported that the two groups shook hands with one another.
But things got heated when reputed club member Frank Deluca, 36, got angry and "began screaming obscenities at one of the detectives," The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, citing the arrest papers.
Police say Deluca pushed one of the detectives before another club member, Michael Zokaites, who weighs a reported 280-pounds, began punching two of the detectives in the head and face. Police said the detectives began to fight back in a violent melee in the middle of the bar.
One person in the bar was able to capture a portion of the fight in a video obtained by the Post-Gazette. In it, an officer can be heard screaming "I'm a cop, I'm a cop," before saying "What the f--- is wrong with you?"
After their cover was blown, the detectives requested backup and soon uniformed officers arrived on the scene to try to break up the fight, with one sergeant releasing pepper spray on those throwing punches.
One of the detectives, identified as Det. Burgunder, reportedly yanked Deluca's ponytail but the suspect continued to fight until he was punched in the face multiple times.
Police found a gun in Deluca's waistband and also found a gun on Erik Hertzrater, 28, one of other men arrested. Both men had permits to carry the concealed weapons. Police also confiscated three large knives.
Deluca, Hertzrater, Zokaites and Bruce Thomas, 61, were all charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy and riot.
The incident has also caught the attention of the Citizen Police Review Board, an independent agency that, according to its website, was created to "investigate citizen complaints about improper police conduct."
"The content of the video I saw raises questions as to the professional conduct of the officers involved," Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the organization told the Post-Gazette.
The owner of the bar has given the surveillance footage of the fight to police, according to Pittsburgh news station WTAE.
[Photo: Allegheny County]
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