Paul Abel is a Pittsburgh police officer who garnered national backlash after a video emerged of himself arresting a man who criticized his “Thin Blue Line” face mask.
On September 6, the officer was working an “approved off-duty detail at the farmers market” when he was approached by 22-year-old Daniel Holc, who was exiting the store, according to a press release obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Holc expressed that Abel’s “Thin Blue Line” face mask depicting the American flag was offensive, to which the officer disagreed, the newspaper reported. An argument then ensued, resulting in Holc’s arrest.
Bystander footage of the incident recently emerged online, which shows clips of Holc holding up his hands while Abel threatens to use his Taser on him. Holc also repeatedly asks why he is being arrested.
“You know what, dude? The city gives me this,” Abel says at one point in the video, showcasing his stun gun.
“No, no, no, please stop. Please don’t do that,” Holc responds.
“I told you to go away and you didn’t want to listen,” Abel later says in the footage, followed by Holc asking what crime he committed.
“But go away for what reason? Did I commit a crime?” Holc asks.
Abel expresses that the man is under arrest for “failure to disperse.”
Holc has since been charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, as well as drug charges, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Here’s what you need to know about officer Paul Abel:
1. Video of the Arrest Quickly Went Viral, With Many Users Condemning the Officer
The video was picked up by the popular Twitter account, Fifty Shades of Whey, on September 10, with the caption: “Police officer in Pittsburgh arrests a man for asking about his ‘Thin Blue Line’ face mask.”
The tweet has since amassed over 39,000 retweets and more than 7.7 million views.
Many have taken to the platform to condemn the officer’s conduct, with several calling for Abel’s firing.
Below are some of the responses:
2. An Online Petition Calling for Abel’s Firing Has Garnered More than 1,000 Signatures
A Change.org petition calling for Abel’s firing was recently created by a person named Natalie DePaulis and addressed to Pittsburgh city officials.
The petition describes Abel as “horribly unfit for the job,” writing:
We are asking Mayor Bill Peduto and Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert for Abel’s removal from the position of police officer as he is horribly unfit for the job. The citizens of Pittsburgh should not have to live in fear that one of the people who is supposed to protect them is exactly the kind of person that they need protection from. I implore you to do the right thing and remove this horribly dangerous man from our police force in order to keep this city safe. Our police officers are the people who should be protecting and serving us, not the people we need to be protected from.
The petition is asking for a total of 1,500 signatures and has amassed more than 1,000 so far.
3. Abel Was Arrested in 2008 on Charges of Aggravated Assault
In 2008, Abel was charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and driving under the influence stemming from an incident in which he was accused of pistol-whipping a man while off-duty, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The newspaper reported that Abel “allegedly pistol-whipped a man in the back of the head with his firearm near a bar on the South Side while he was off-duty. The gun then went off, wounding the man in his hand.”
Although Abel was charged and suspended without pay, he was later cleared in June 2009, the Post-Gazette said. He was also reinstated through arbitration.
4. Abel Was Accused of Pressuring His Wife to Make False Charges
Shortly after his 2008 arrest, Abel was accused of pressuring his wife to file false claims of sexual abuse against her children’s grandparents, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Paul Abel’s wife, Cassandra Abel, sought an emergency protection-from-abuse order after claiming she was worried the parents of her first husband, Richard and Linda Sciubba, were inappropriately touching her two daughters, according to the newspaper.
All parties involved were in the midst of a custody battle at the time of the accusation, the Post-Gazette said.
“Later that month, during a hearing before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David N. Wecht, Mrs. Abel said her husband forced her to make the charges against the Sciubbas, according to Joseph Horowitz, an attorney whose firm represents the Sciubbas,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
5. Pittsburgh’s Office of Municipal Investigations Is Examining Abel’s Arrest of Holc
A Pittsburgh city official told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the Office of Municipal Investigations is slated to “examine” Abel’s arrest of Holc.
The case has been referred to the office for review, which conducts “violation complaints of city employees, such as police officers, firefighters and building inspectors,” the newspaper reported.