Pittsburgh Cop with troubled past arrests bystander after ‘he came up and decided to be disrespectful to me’

By September 8, 2020 35 Comments

By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor

A police officer with a history of both on-duty and off-duty run-ins with the public arrested a bystander outside the Squirrel Hill Market Sunday after he told Abel that the officer’s “Thin Blue Line” facemask, was disrespectful to the American Flag.

According to video of the incident and an eyewitness at the scene, Abel told the man to leave the area. The man, who was going to the market, asked what he did wrong and why he had to leave, Abel took him into custody, even pulling his Taser on the young man, who continued to ask what he had done wrong.

Abel has a history of high-profile on- and off-duty incidents, including being fired and charged criminally for pistol-whipping and accidentally shooting a man while Abel was off-duty and drinking on the South Side in 2008. A man allegedly punched Abel outside a bar. Abel pursued the man, hit him with his gun, and accidentally discharged his weapon, shooting the man in the hand. Turns out, though, it wasn’t even the man who bumped into Abel.  Abel was acquitted after the judge essentially ruled that a cop, even one who had been drinking, is never off-duty.  However, the city paid close to $45,000 in a civil settlement. Abel got his job back.

During Sunday’s incident. Abel turns the man around and when he tells Abel that he did nothing wrong, the officer pulls the Taser.

“You know what, dude? The city gives me this,” Abel says as he pulls the stun gun and levels it at the man’s chest who is an arm’s length away.

Pittsburgh Police Officer Paul Abel addresses a crowd of onlookers after he detains a bystander outside the Squirrel Hill Market Sunday afternoon.

The man replies: “No, no, no, please stop. Please don’t do that.”

Abel then shrieks at the man: “Then, turn around and put your hands behind your back, now! Now!.

The man continues to tell Abel. “I have not done anything.”

Abel replies: “I told you to go away and you didn’t want to listen.”

“But go away for what reason? Did I commit a crime?” the man asks

Abel replies: “Did I tell you to give me your ID?”

“But give it for what reason? All I said is that it’s disrespectful to have that certain mask on.”

Replies Abel: “And then I told you to walk away, didn’t I?”

The pair continue the back and forth and bystanders continue to ask the Abel what the man did to warrant arrest and search. Abel told the crowd: “He came up and decided to be disrespectful to me.” Many in the crowd pointed out that being disrespectful wasn’t a crime.

Pittsburgh Police issued a statement about the incident stating that Abel was working an approved off-duty assignment and that the man was blocking the exit to the market, “preventing other  customers from leaving, including a blind couple.” According to the statement, an employee at the Squirrel Hill Market asked the man to move and said the man “became agitated and raised his voice,” and tried to engage the officer further about the flag, and continued to refuse to move. The officer asked for his identification several times so he could cite him, but the man refused each time and continued to block the exit and shout profanities at the officer.” The statement, which can be found below in its entirety said the man “tried to engage the officer further about the flag, and continued to refuse to move. The officer asked for his identification several times so he could cite him, but the man refused each time and continued to block the exit and shout profanities at the officer. At this point the officer moved to physically arrest the male, who resisted, knocking the officer’s body-worn camera into the street in the process. The male continued to resist arrest so the officer told him he would use his Taser if he did not comply. At that point, the man complied and put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed.” Police said Abel’s subsequent search of the man’s backpack turned up, “marijuana, THC edibles, and drug paraphernalia and did not have a medical marijuana card. Charges include “Resisting Arrest, Defiant Trespass, Disorderly Conduct, and narcotics-related charges.”

The Pittsburgh Current asked about the appropriateness of Abel wearing his mask while in uniform. No response was given.

In the videos, the man constantly questions why he’s being arrested. Alex Osgood of Regent Square witnessed the altercation and told the Pittsburgh Current earlier today that it did not appear that the man was blocking people from moving on the sidewalk and that to him it didn’t look like the man did anything except question Abel’s choice in facemasks.

“[Abel] was really, really aggressive, not just to [the man] but to the bystanders as well,” Osgood says. “The only reason [Abel] gave for the arrest was that he was being disrespectful. This was way over the line if you ask me. The fact that he’s still employed is crazy to me. This is an officer who was previously fired from the force and somehow gets his job back through arbitration. That shows the power of the police union and that these reforms that [Mayor Bill] Peduto has out there aren’t going to cut it.”

Osgood says, even if the police statement is accurate, the worse thing that the man did was holding up the exit to a farmer’s market. “At that moment, Officer Abel had a choice to try and deescalate the situation, but instead he opted to cite him.” Osgood says it’s a pattern of Pittsburgh police to choose “escalation over de-escalation” in a lot of situations.

De-escalation of a situation has never been one of Abel’s strongest qualities.

In addition to the South Side incident, Abel was accused of improperly detaining and searching a man in 2019.

In 2008, also around the time of his South Side incident, Abel’s wife testified at a custody hearing centering around Abel’s stepchildren, that her husband forced her to use false claims of alleged sexual abuse against the children’s grandparents, who were seeking some level of custody at the time. Abel’s wife made the allegations in a request for a protection from abuse order. The order was never granted because Abel’s wife didn’t show up for the hearing. According to the Post-Gazette at the time, the grandparents’ attorney testified about the allegations at a public hearing of the Citizens Police Review Board into other incidents involving Abel. The grandmother of the children at the time said Officer Abel ‘was a bomb waiting to go off.”

Also in 2008, Joseph Stubenrauch of Allentown claimed Abel “beat him up at his home as paramedics tried to treat his father, who was having heart problems.” According to the P-G, Stubenrauch’s father didn’t want to be taken to the hospital and at one point, Abel wanted to use his taser on the elderly man. The man told Abel not to use the taser and the man was beaten and arrested. At the time, the Allegheny County Jail refused to take the man until he had been treated at a hospital for his injuries.

Complete Pittsburgh Police Statement:

Just after noon on September 6, a Pittsburgh Police officer working an approved off-duty detail for City of Pittsburgh Special Events at the Squirrel Hill Farmer’s Market was approached by a male patron who informed him that his mask (thin blue line mask) was disrespectful to the American flag.

The officer, who was speaking with a Special Events employee at the time, told the man that he would have to agree to disagree. The man, who was exiting the market at the cordoned-off exit point, continued to make his point to the officer and wanted to show him something on his phone. The officer would not engage with him. At this point a line was building as the man was blocking the exit, preventing other customers from leaving, including a blind couple.

The Special Events employee informed the man that he was blocking the exit and he needed to move aside. He became agitated and raised his voice, tried to engage the officer further about the flag, and continued to refuse to move. The officer asked for his identification several times so he could cite him, but the man refused each time and continued to block the exit and shout profanities at the officer.

At this point the officer moved to physically arrest the male, who resisted, knocking the officer’s body worn camera into the street in the process. The male continued to resist arrest so the officer told him he would use his Taser if he did not comply. At that point, the man complied and put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed.

The events employee then retrieved the officer’s body worn camera from the street so he could reactivate it.

The officer retrieved the man’s wallet for identification and searched his backpack where he recovered marijuana, THC edibles, and drug paraphernalia. The man did not possess a medical marijuana card.

He was arrested and charged with Resisting Arrest, Defiant Trespass, Disorderly Conduct, and narcotics-related charges.


  • Chris says:

    So this is a scary precedent.

    • dirge says:

      I call BS on the other charges, just trying to throw mud at the guy to make this wrongful arrest stick. This cop is not an American.

  • Deedley says:

    “Troubled Past?”

    More like “With a history of abuse and misconduct”

  • David Shonk says:

    Abel is the prototypical “bad apple” that authorities just can seem to get rid of, despite solid, repeated evidence…and the type of cop that American citizens have had enough of.

    • Brandon Ford says:

      Well said. As a biracial man living in Pittsburgh I have been harrassed and profiled my hole life by cops like this. Only met about 3 half decent cops, but that half decent cop will not stand up for a civilian in the middle of a arrest with all these othere bad apples.

  • ACAB says:

    Kill all pigs

    • Steve says:

      And serve the pigs at the Police Bar B Q.

      When you try to make the case that police officers should be killed, then you have to accept the same for yourself.
      Rather we should say, “Protect the Police, Protect the Citizen”.
      Stand up for people.
      The police work for us, because we need them.
      It’s up to us to change how they do their job.

  • Alex says:


    You people just want anarchy and to resist and to lump all bad cops into one big pool…. This is ridiculous already. Don’t be an asshole, and you won’t be detained.

    • Mike says:

      You don’t have to do what a cop tells you unless you’re doing something illegal. You can tell a cop he’s being disrespectful, his hair is ugly or that the cop outfit makes him look fat. It’s called the first amendment.

      Paul Abel is a shitty cop and should find another line of work as he doesn’t have the temperament needed to be a cop

    • Elizabeth says:

      I wasn’t aware I was able to be arrested for being rude. Guess I’ll just have to compliment the police on the taste of their boot and you on your excellent tongue form.

      • stk33 says:

        If you are being rude to the police officer, the officer can tell you to leave the premises. If you refuse, you are trespassing, so he arrests you for that. If you resist, that’s another charge. If upon arrest he finds drugs in your backback, that’s another. So it’s better not be be rude to the officer, especially if you have drugs in the backpack.

        • John S says:

          Um, no… In order to be trespassing the owner of a property has to say that you have no right to be there, or there at least has a reason to believe that you are not allowed to be there. An officer telling you to leave is not a valid reason. On top of that the incident appears to be taking place on a public sidewalk, where I’m pretty sure that it is perfectly legal for him to be.

        • Anonymous says:

          They can’t tell you to leave a public place. The kid should have asked the “pig” to state the statue or penal code for being in public. Ultimately the kid won the lawsuit against the city.

    • Chris S says:

      You have to listen to lawful orders. A cop tell I g you to leave necause he disagrees with your viewpoint is not a lawful order. It is trampling on your first amendment rights. And I don’t give a crap the guy had marijuana on him. It was fruit if a poisonous tree and an unlawful search. Furthermore this a-hole officer litterally has shot the wrong guy while intoxicated and been fired but reinstated due to having a friend in the judiciary and the pernicious power of police unions. He doesn’t deserve to be an officer and I would further argue that yes he is desecrating the flag amd a history of assaulting people with pistol whipping and shooting is a far more grave offense than one of possession, then making your wife file false charges against her own parents and what we don’t know about him… He is a scumbag . I hope he burns in hell whem he dies. I hope he leaves PA and comes to another state trying the same shit and gets arrested by real police. F him.

      • srk33 says:

        Private property owner, or his representative which the officer is, can ask anyone to leave at any time and for any reason, or without any, and if you refuse, you trespass. This is part of the freedom of the property owner himself. Your first amendment rights work in the public forum places, but not on private property.

  • Vinny From Indy says:

    It seems incomprehensible that this officer’s superiors can’t see that this man is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.

  • Nothing Learned says:

    Cop: I was afraid and feared for my life because the perp challenged my authority.
    Cop: I was afraid and feared for my life because MY WIFE challenged my authority.
    Wife: Reports abuse, but fails to show up at the hearing.
    Grandmother: The grandmother of the children at the time said Officer Abel ‘was a bomb waiting to go off.”
    De-escalation of a situation has never been one of Abel’s strongest qualities.

    Until police are personally held responsible for their misdeeds, there will be no changes nor reforms.

  • Chris Green says:

    This is a load of bull. The Pittsburgh police trying to gaslight people who can see exactly what happened for themselves. This is completely unacceptable. The police work for the people, and falsely arresting and charging citizens just because they want more respect is not working for the people. It’s working for themselves and flagrantly abusing their power.

  • Nicholas Granito says:

    What a little twerp…you can tell that pog bitch got picked on in high-school a shit ton. Defund the police!

  • Nicholas Granito says:


  • Jack says:

    People think they always have to run their mouths anymore, I can’t stand snowflakes

  • PGHFilm says:

    Fix your lead graf. Abel who, you never introduced him in full?

  • Nunya Bidness says:

    Fuckstick cop

  • Isaiah says:

    The police station really dropped a statement that doesn’t match what everyone can see in the video and it’ll probably get them out of it anyways. Sad.

  • Daniel says:

    The police report is an obvious fabrication of events. If there had been a scuffle, the officer would have said so, at the time, to justify his actions, but he didnt, he didnt have an answer as to why he had cuffed and detained him. Which makes me question whether the kid did have any drugs on him. Again the police have been known to lie and plant drugs on people. Just another example of a bad apple who are continually protected from within.

  • none says:

    this POS blue lies mafia snowflake needs to be FIRED!

  • This cop is a thug and if they don’t fire him from the Pittsburgh Police Department he’s going to murder someone and cost the city a huge liability insurance payment not to mention he will have likely taken someone’s life. I was a union member most of my working life but at this point I think police unions exist for nothing more than assuring that bad cops get to keep their job and at the same time convincing the public that most police officers are insensitive, inept, bullies who are possessed of a psychopathy that public are not to be protected but insulted and abused because like a gang the streets are their turf and they will take umbrage at anything they deem disrespectful to them though ultimately the taxpayer is their employer. And you know this gentleman will never be convicted for the marijuana possession because the search is clearly unconstitutional as it pertains to the fourth amendment. The mask is an insult to the American flag which many veterans like myself served defending a person’s right to express their disapproval of such as the mask he was wearing and was donned by Abel to provoke such a response.

    • stk33 says:

      Store representative, which the cop is, asks the guy to leave. The guy refuses. This is already trespass, so the subsequent arrest is lawful, and subsequent search as well. Note that the guy is still being charged with all the charges, nothing had been dropped.

  • OG says:

    Fuck that faggot peckerwood pig, I would whoop his pecker ass all up and down the street on a Sunday while his step children cheer me on.

  • Gerard Byrne says:

    That cop should be fired, again. A piss poor representative of a wonderful city with residents that will call you out for the gang implying, racist message you advertise. Get rid of those masks or expect more confrontations. It’s gonna happen.

  • KMR says:

    The officer was wrong to be wearing the blue line flag at work. Let’s start there!! I am sure that being a city employee there is a POLICY regarding what masks are allowed– there is a policy for Federal workers– nothing political.. Officer Abel most likely should NOT have been wearing this mask during his on duty tour. This incident would have NOT happened, The young man was calling him out for disrespecting the flag and the officer was on a power trip. After hearing about his prior incidents and a judge letting him off since he is “always a cop” even though he is out drinking and most likely did not identify himself as a police officer is very disturbing. Abel needs to be reassigned to the mail room and NOT interact with the public– since it seems impossible to fire him given the Police Union.

  • stk33 says:

    If I read this information correctly – – Abel’s victim pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct.

  • Paul says:

    This rag paper, the obviously liberally biased author of this story, and the douchebag filming are all both deplorable and hateable, as are the apparent snowflakes of that city. I am glad l don’t live in that whiney liberal waste of a city. That cop did everything right, and it was a legal arrest. Allegations in his past have nothing to do with it. Guy wants to be a jerk off, he gets treated like a jerk off. Disorderly persons, assault on a cop, resisting arrest, narcotics offenses (and yes the search was completely legal) – he had it coming, and l don’t care how many snowflake cucks who want to sing kumbaya and dream away their problems, or blame cops and the system to avoid personal accountability want to cry about it. Too bad he doesn’t work in a real city.

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