Pittsburgh police officer retires during ongoing investigation of Taser use on pizzeria worker

A Pittsburgh police officer who was under investigation after shocking a Downtown restaurant worker with a Taser in October retired Wednesday.

The retirement comes after multiple agencies opened investigations into former Officer Ronald Hough after he discharged his Taser at Dominic Reale, 46, of Robinson, inside Villa Reale Pizzeria and Restaurant on Smithfield Street on Oct. 30.

Those investigations by the city’s Office of Municipal Investigations and the Citizen Police Review Board will continue, as will an FBI review of the incident.

Mr. Reale’s attorney, Joel Sansone, said Wednesday that he gave copies of surveillance video of the incident to the FBI on Tuesday.

“We’re gratified the FBI is in the case now,” he said. “We’re cooperating with their investigation.”

He said he has not yet provided a copy of the video to the Office of Municipal Investigations, despite multiple requests from police. He earlier implied he did not trust OMI to properly handle the investigation.

Mr. Sansone said Wednesday that Mr. Hough’s decision to retire was the right decision.

“This is the proper thing for him to have done,” he said. “Since he obviously has lost the ability to make intelligent choices while in possession of a weapon he was authorized to have. He makes the right choice, at least this time. It would have been better if he made intelligent choices earlier.”

Mr. Sansone maintains that Mr. Reale did nothing to provoke or threaten Mr. Hough when the officer shocked him with the Taser as Mr. Reale leaned on a counter inside the restaurant.

Video of the incident shows Mr. Hough, who was a regular at the restaurant, and Mr. Reale, the restaurant owner’s son, talking for several minutes before the incident. Mr. Hough is wearing his police uniform.

The two were friendly in the context of the restaurant but did not spend time together outside the pizzeria, Mr. Sansone said.

In the video, the officer follows Mr. Reale around a counter before eventually pulling out his Taser and firing. The probes hit Mr. Reale in the chest and he falls to the ground.

Mr. Hough then walks up to Mr. Reale and pulls out the probes, helps the man to his feet and pats him off.

Mr. Hough did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Robert Swartzwelder, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1, said Wednesday that Mr. Hough retired in good standing.

The retirement essentially ends the Citizen Police Review Board’s investigation into Mr. Hough and shields him from facing discipline, said Executive Director Elizabeth Pittinger.

“Once he’s retired he’s out of our jurisdiction,” she said. “He’s not been charged with a crime so there is no threat to his pension. It’s not like he was suspended or terminated. Bottom line is he will not be held accountable for what transpired at Villa Reale.”

Retired police officers can lose their pensions if convicted of particular crimes listed in the state’s Public Employee Pension Forfeiture Act, which largely includes crimes relating to theft, forgery, bribery, witness intimidation or official oppression.

Mr. Hough has not been charged with any crimes.

The CPRB is still investigating Mr. Sansone’s allegations that “numerous” other officers visited the restaurant and intimidated Mr. Reale after the incident, Ms. Pittinger said. Mr. Sansone said some officers suggested Mr. Reale delete the surveillance video and others tried to bring the video to light.

Mr. Sansone said Wednesday that those visits — which he said began the day of the incident and continued for weeks — have subsided since the story was reported in the media on Thursday.

This is at least the third time the FBI has begun reviews into the actions of Pittsburgh police officers this year.

In May, the agency said it was reviewing Officer Raymond Toomey’s controversial and violent arrest of Nathan Stanley III outside the Flats on Carson bar at 1500 E. Carson St.

And in September, the FBI confirmed a review of the violent arrest of an Ohio man by five officers outside PPG Paints Arena on Sept. 19