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The Henderson-Stewart Incident: Followup Meeting #1

Posted by Elwin Green on July 1, 2013 at 10:30 PM


Councilman Ricky V. Burgess addresses a closed meeting for people who witnessed any part of the detainment of Dennis Henderson and Rossano Stewart on June 26 by Officer Jonathan Gromek. Beside him sit acting police chief Regina McDonald, operations chief Commander Maurita Bryant, Urban League of Pittsburgh president and CEO Esther Bush and Community Empowerment Association CEO Rashad Byrdsong

When teacher Dennis Henderson was arrested outside of a community meeting in Homewood last week, in an incident that also saw photojournalist Rossano Stewart being handcuffed and released, the group of citizens who went down to Zone 5 headquarters to inquire after Mr. Henderson ended the evening with an agreement to have two meetings in the wake of the incident - first, a closed meeting with ourselves and government and police officials; then an open community meeting.


The first meeting was held tonight. At the front of the room sat 2nd District Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith (who is also public safety chair), Councilman Ricky V. Burgess, acting police chief McDonald, operations chief Maurita Bryant, Urban League president Esther Bush and Community Empowerment Association CEO Rashad Byrdsong. District 8 Councilman Bill Peduto was also present for part of the meeting.


Because it was a closed meeting, news teams from KDKA (Channel 2), WTAE (Channel 4) and WPXI (Channel 11) all had to wait outside and get comments from Councilman Ricky V. Burgess after the meeting. Tune in to any of those stations' late news for his remarks.


And because it was a closed meeting, I won't quote anyone. But I'll tell you the basic structure of the meeting, which was in three parts:


I. Comments from people who attended last Wednesday's meeting, to say what they saw, felt and thought.


II. Comments from the panel, in particular the public safety officials.


III. Recommendations by Councilman Burgess.


There were slight divergences, but we mostly stuck to that.


No major commitments were made, but there was consensus on at least a couple of points: that the charges against Mr. Henderson should be dropped; and that the community should show up in force at his hearing.


The open community meeting is at 6 pm tomorrow, Tuesday July 2, at Community Empowerment Association, 7120 Kelly Street.


While I won't quote anyone else from tonight, I give myself permission to share what I said.


Addressing Chief McDonald and Commander Bryant, I told them that in Mr. Henderson's cell phone video, we hear Officer Gromek saying, "Stop playing with your phone," and that when Mr. Henderson asserts his right to record video, Officer Gromek denies that. I asked if a citizen does have the right to visually record an encounter with an officer. They acknowledged that that right exists.

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