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Hundreds Rally For Football Player’s Cousin Who Died in Police Custody

November 1, 1995 GMT

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Hundreds of people rallied in memory of a pro football player’s cousin who died in police custody, some protesters carrying signs comparing a police department to the Ku Klux Klan.

A few cried out ``murder, murder″ as Ray Seals and about 300 supporters called Tuesday for prosecution of the police officers involved in the death of Seals’ cousin, Jonny Gammage.

``It’d be a real blow to the country ... because now you’re saying that police can use excessive force to the point where they can kill somebody and it’s justified, and that’s not right,″ said Seals, the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end.


Gammage, 31, died Oct. 12, after leading police on a 1.4-mile, low-speed chase from suburban Brentwood into Pittsburgh. Police said they saw him driving Seals’ Jaguar erratically.

They said Gammage resisted arrest and bit the thumb of one of the five officers who gathered to subdue him and broke the wrist of another. One officer used his baton and knee to subdue Gammage as he lay face-down on the pavement, according to reports in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The coroner ruled that Gammage suffocated due to a compression of his neck and chest.

His supporters argue that Gammage, 5-foot-7 and 187 pounds, would never have attacked police. A small amount of moldy marijuana was found in the car, but toxicology tests found no evidence that Gammage had been using drugs.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called his death a ``lynching.″ Gammage was black; the officers involved are white.

After an inquest scheduled for today, the six-member coroner’s jury will decide whether the death was justifiable. If it is ruled unjustifiable, jurors will vote on what charges should be filed and against whom.

The coroner can forward the recommendations to prosecutors, or reject them. Prosecutors are also free to accept or reject the recommendations. Pittsburgh police and the FBI are also investigating.