Police officer faces trial after allegedly assaulting, harassing Pitt students

Telmar+Palmer+was+charged+Sept.+1+with+invasion+of+privacy+and+attempted+indecent+assault.
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Police officer faces trial after allegedly assaulting, harassing Pitt students

Telmar Palmer was charged Sept. 1 with invasion of privacy and attempted indecent assault.

Telmar Palmer was charged Sept. 1 with invasion of privacy and attempted indecent assault.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Telmar Palmer was charged Sept. 1 with invasion of privacy and attempted indecent assault.

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Telmar Palmer was charged Sept. 1 with invasion of privacy and attempted indecent assault.

By Jon Moss, News Editor

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A 47-year-old white police officer will be on trial Thursday facing six criminal charges, including two counts each of simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct resulting from a previously unreported off-duty incident last October involving two unarmed black Pitt students.

According to a criminal complaint filed by Pitt police officer Richard Hamilton on Oct. 24, 2018, the incident began on the night of Oct. 10, 2018 when Aaron Hill, then a Pitt senior and president of Pitt’s National Pan-Hellenic Council, and Stanley Umeweni, then a Pitt senior and member of SGB’s allocations committee, were walking west on Fifth Avenue to cross Atwood Street.

The two men saw a red Jeep approach the intersection to make a left turn onto Fifth Avenue, and heard the vehicle’s horn blown excessively, according to the complaint. Anthony Ricchiuto, an off-duty police officer who was driving the Jeep, told the two men to meet them at the corner of Fifth and Meyran avenues, one block ahead. Ricchiuto’s younger brother Brian was riding in the car with him.

According to Hill, the two Ricchiuto brothers got out of the car and began walking towards him and Umeweni. Anthony Ricchiuto then lifted his shirt and placed his hand on a gun holster on his waistline, Hill said. Umeweni and Hill began to walk backwards from the two Ricchiuto brothers, and Umeweni told them that he and Hill were not armed and they should “back off.”

According to Umeweni, Brian Ricchiuto then moved in front of his older brother, said “I don’t need a gun,” and struck Umeweni in the arm. The Ricchiuto brothers then turned and ran back to the red Jeep.

Hill and Umeweni went to Panther Central that night to report the incident and met with Pitt police. Hamilton, the Pitt police officer who filed the criminal complaint, said evidence from cameras in the area of the incident “strongly supports” the accounts of Hill and Umeweni.

Pitt spokesperson Kevin Zwick said in an email the safety of students is the University’s highest priority.

Brian Ricchiuto would later plead guilty in February to two counts of harassment, one each against Hill and Umeweni.

Over his career, Anthony Ricchiuto has worked for at least five different Pittsburgh area police departments.

He worked at the Borough of Swissvale Police Department from at least April 2005 until his July 2009 termination, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Then police Chief Greg Geppert told the Post-Gazette that Ricchiuto was terminated because he failed to attend several court appearances. Diane Turley, the borough’s finance director, declined to confirm Ricchiuto’s title or employment dates, citing borough policy.

Ricchiuto worked for some time for the Point Park University Police Department, but Point Park spokesperson Louis Carsaro declined to provide Ricchiuto’s title or employment dates, citing University policy. He received the Recognition of Excellence Award from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police while employed at Point Park, according to a University newsletter from winter 2014.

Ricchiuto also worked at the Borough of Avalon’s Police Department from October 15, 2015 to December 5, 2016. Minutes from a December 2016 meeting of the Borough’s Council show the body accepted a resignation letter from Ricchiuto.

Ricchiuto then worked as a police supervisor at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, according to UPMC spokesperson Gloria Kreps. Kreps said Ricchiuto was suspended following his arrest, and later resigned from his position. UPMC spokesperson Susan Manko declined to provide Ricchiuto’s employment dates.

Ricchiuto has worked for the Braddock Hills Police Department since July 2014, according to a June 18 interview with Borough Manager Cheryl Sorrentino. Robert Garvin, the borough’s attorney, declined to comment on the case.

In an interview, Hill said the incident made him wonder about the current state of race relations in Pittsburgh, and across the country. The October incident took place just four months after the June shooting of Antwon Rose II, an unarmed black 17-year-old, by a white police officer in nearby East Pittsburgh.

“How do we get to the place we need to be as America?” Hill said. “This could have just happened to just random college students in the middle of Pitt, which is unreal.”

Hill added that he visited the University Counseling Center weekly after the incident, and now has a fear of guns.

“I don’t even look at them. I hate people around me who have them,” Hill said. “I just feel bad for people who are good with guns, and now I have to hate them because of the actions of another.”

But Hill said he isn’t letting the incident get in the way of his future — he said he finished his last semester at Pitt with a 3.99 GPA. Before the incident occurred, Hill said he had been working on applications to law schools, but what happened made him double down on his efforts — he will start law school at the University of Toledo in Ohio this fall. 

“The idea that this still can happen, especially to people like me, and being we don’t have a force or a play in that, I think that pushed me a lot further,” Hill said. “I think that was the motivation.”

Umeweni and Anthony Ricchiuto’s lawyer, Almon Burke, did not respond to requests for comment.

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