- John Fetterman, a Democratic candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, pulled a shotgun on an unarmed black jogger during a 2013 incident that resurfaced on Tuesday.
- Fetterman, who was mayor of a town outside of Pittsburgh at the time of the incident, told police that he followed the man, Christopher Miyares, after hearing what sounded like gunshots.
- Police said Miyares was unarmed and wearing jogging attire. Miyares told a news outlet at the time that Fetterman pointed the .20 gauge shotgun at his chest.
- Fetterman portrayed himself as a crusader against gun violence in a video he released just before The New York Times published about the incident on Tuesday.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman pulled a shotgun on an unarmed black jogger in 2013 in an incident that could disrupt the Democrat’s campaign for U.S. Senate.
Fetterman was mayor of Braddock, a small borough outside of Pittsburgh, at the time of the incident, which resurfaced in a story published by The New York Times on Tuesday.
According to a police report cited by The Times, Fetterman confronted a man named Christopher Miyares after he heard what he thought were rifle shots.
Fetterman, who was elected mayor of Braddock in 2005, followed Miyares in his pickup truck and pulled out a .20 gauge shotgun to detain him until police arrived.
Miyares was unarmed, according to the police report from the Jan. 31, 2013, incident. He was instead wearing headphones and running attire.
“Fetterman continued to yell and state that he knows this male was shooting,” the police report says, according to The Times.
Miyares criticized Fetterman in an interview after the incident, and said that Fetterman pointed the shotgun at his chest during the encounter.
“He’s trying to make it like it’s okay, he’s trying to justify what he did. I mean, you’re the mayor of Braddock…with a shotgun,” Miyares said in an interview with WTAE following the incident.
Fetterman, who also spoke to WTAE, said he had a .20 gauge shotgun under the backseat of his truck. He denied pointing the gun at Miyares, but acknowledged that he pulled it out and made it visible to the jogger.
“I believe I did the right thing, but I may have broken the law during the course of it,” Fetterman said in that interview.
The incident is likely to put Fetterman in conflict with the social justice movements he claims to support.
“That can have very grave consequences,” Randall Taylor, a Pittsburgh-based activist who knows Fetterman, told The Philadelphia Inquirer on Wednesday of the incident.
“I know as a constituent I would like a full and complete explanation of what happened that day.”
Fetterman, who became a darling of liberal media outlets after President Trump made baseless claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, wrote in an op-ed on July 7 that police departments should engage in “de-escalation” in order to avoid potentially fatal encounters with citizens.
“We must end the long shadow of injustice of our criminal justice system for Black Americans,” he tweeted on May 30, 2020, following the death of George Floyd, a black main who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck during an arrest.
Floyd’s death brought broader attention to incidents of white people confronting African Americans they deemed to be suspicious. The term “running while black” became a topic of discussion following the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man killed by a group of white men in Georgia on Feb. 23, 2020 while jogging.
In August, a white woman named Amy Cooper was charged with a misdemeanor and fired from her job after video went viral of her threatening to call the police on a black man who was bird watching in Central Park in New York City.
In discussing the 2013 incident, Fetterman has portrayed himself as more of a hero than a vigilante. He has also denied knowing Miyares’ race, while citing his popularity in Braddock, which is nearly 70% African American.
Fetterman described the incident, while leaving out Miyares’ race, in a video he released on YouTube just before The Times published its story.
Fetterman claimed that he was on heightened alert in the wake of a school shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.
“There was an episode over eight years ago where I was outside with my young son…and I heard this crushing burst of gunfire coming from a corridor that was the scene of dozens of shootings, some fatal, some not,” Fetterman says in the video, entitled “Gun Violence.”
“I immediately made a series of split-second decisions, get my son to safety, call 911, and then I saw an individual dressed entirely in black and a face mask who was running from that scene in the direction of our elementary school. This was a few weeks after the Sandy Hook child massacre.”
He said he “made a decision at that point to intervene to stop him from going any further until the first responders could arrive.”
“As mayor I always believed it was my duty and obligation to protect and safeguard our community, and that’s exactly where I was coming from.”
Fetterman did not apologize for the incident during the interview, or in one he gave to a local television station on Wednesday.
Instead, he accused his “opponents” of shopping around the story since 2015 in order to damage his political career.
“That’s a story from over eight years ago, and it’s shopped around by my opponents and it hasn’t gone anywhere,” Fetterman said in an interview with WPMT-TV.
Fetterman defended his actions in 2016, during his first bid for the Senate. He told a columnist for the Philly Voice at the time that Miyares was decked out in “commando gear.”
“I pursued him, got behind him and yelled ‘Stop.’ Two verbal commands like that and then I produced the gun I had,” Fetterman said, adding that, “I know people have been shopping this around to the press, but this had nothing to do with race.”
Fetterman also appeared to question Miyares’ claim that he was jogging.
“It’s an odd situation. We never fully figured out what happened. All I knew is he claimed he was jogging,” he said.
The Braddock police department did not respond to a voice mail and email seeking a copy of Fetterman’s police report.
The Times reported that Miyares has been in jail since 2018 on felony charges of kidnapping for ransom and making terrorist threats. He did not respond to a request for comment through Facebook.
The Fetterman campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.