Two Philadelphia Police Officers Charged In Beating of Unarmed Suspect

257FB23A00000578-0-image-a-6_1423473953668257FB22F00000578-0-image-a-1_1423473872267257FB23400000578-0-image-m-5_1423473945888Philadelphia police officers Sean McKnight and Kevin Robinson have been arrested and criminally charged after a videotape showed them pursuing Najee Rivera on a scooter. After they stop, the two officers get out and beat Rivera with their fists and batons. He was left with fractures in his orbital bones and lacerations.

Notably, it was Rivera’s girlfriend who tracked down the videotape that would make all the difference in the case.

The grand jury reported that “Throughout the entire encounter that is captured on the video, Rivera was wailing loudly and uncontrollably. Although he was moving around on the ground while being struck, he was not resisting the officers or engaging in any aggressive actions.”

Notably, the incident reported by the officers stands in sharp contrast to what is seen on the videotape. The grand jury reported:

This Grand Jury viewed a “75-48 Incident Report” filled out and signed by McKnight shortly after the incident. Detective James Brooks, of East Detective Division, testified that this is the initial document filled out by a police officer after an incident. Detective Brooks began work around midnight on May 30, 2013 and was assigned to investigate this incident. The “75- 48” filled out by McKnight states, in part, that “Abv compl [referring to Robinson] caught up to blw male [referring to Rivera]. The blw male then grabbed the abv compl and threw him into a brick wall at abv loc. Blw off [offender] then began to throw multiple elbows at abv compl then was attempting to push the abv compl’s face in to the same brick wall.” The Grand Jury determined that false and inaccurate description of the incident is directly refuted by the video.

Both officers then gave separate false statements to the Detective according to the grand jury:

Based upon that initial account provided by McKnight, Det. Brooks began his investigation by interviewing Robinson at 1:04 AM on May 30, 2013. Robinson told Det. Brooks in his statement that he attempted to stop Rivera for disregarding a stop sign at 7th and Cambria Streets. When Rivera pulled over and both officers exited their patrol car, Rivera fled the scene. Robinson stated that “[a]pprox. 5-10 minutes later, we observed this Hispanic male on the scooter driving E/B on Lehigh Ave from 7th Street…The scooter then drove the wrong way N/B on 2700 6th Street.” Robinson told Det. Brooks that both officers “observed the Hispanic male lose control of the scooter and fall to the ground.” He further stated that he “caught up with the male quickly and grabbed a hold of him at which time he was able to turn around and grab a hold of me, slamming me against a brick wall building. I struggled to gain control of him for he had a hold of my upper chest neck area and was repeatedly throwing elbows at me.” Despite those claims being false and inaccurate, Robinson reviewed and signed this statement. The Grand Jury determined that the above statement is proved false by the video of the incident.
At 4:15 AM, Det. Brooks took a written statement from McKnight in which he said the following:
“I observed the male losing control and falling to the ground. We pulled up and at that point the Hispanic male stood up held his head with his left hand and attempted to run. We ran about 15-20 feet when my partner was able to catch up to him. I was approx. 10-12 feet back when this happened. While running towards my partner I saw the Hispanic male grab my partner with both his hands by his chest upper vest area and slammed him into a brick wall of the building. The Hispanic male held my partner up against the wall and began throwing elbows towards my partner’s face and head area. I don’t know if any of the elbows connected. Once I got to my partner and the Hispanic male I took my asp out and attempted to strike the male in his upper arm area. The male continued to resist and hold my partner against the wall. I continued to strike the male with my asp, myself and partner after about 1 minute were able to get this male to the ground. While on the ground the male refuse to show us his hands. Then male then reached up with his right hand and attempted to pull my asp out of my hand…I feared that the male may have had a weapon I struck him once with a closed asp in his face…”
McKnight reviewed and signed this false and inaccurate statement which is contradicted by the video.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams is now promising to prosecute the officers to “fullest extent” possible. That would make a plea bargain more difficult for the defense counsel given the publicity and anger about the incident.

The importance of the videotape in this controversy cannot be overstated. It also shows why some prosecutors and police continue to seek criminal penalties for citizens filming them in public.

We have been following the continuing abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public, these abuses continue.

The video contradiction of the police account is all too familiar on this blog. Of course, in Dallas, Police Chief David Brown revealed a new policy that would require officers involved in a shooting to wait 72 hours before making a statement. The policy came after a scandal where a surveillance video showed one of Brown’s officers shooting a mentally ill suspect for no apparent reason. The video contradicted the officer’s testimony and undermined the charge against the victim. Brown’s solution was not greater disciplining and monitoring of officers but to impose a delay to allow officers to craft their statements.

Illinois has been a leading jurisdiction trying to prosecute citizens for videotaping police in public. Recently, the legislature made it a crime to secretly record police officers where at least one party (presumably the officer) had an expectation of privacy. This would probably not work in public settings but it shows the continued effort of Illinois prosecutors to curtail citizen recordings. Some of these recording have been used against police accused of abusive conduct.

Rivera, 23, was cleared of all charges and has been awarded a $200,000 settlement for pain and suffering. Notably, Robinson was accused of beating 28-year-old Darren Trammell during a 2013 arrest, but was cleared by the Internal Affairs department. However, the city dropped charges against Trammel and settled the case for $125,000.

Police Chief Charles Ramsey told reporters that the case “is painful, it is embarrassing” for the department. For the record, Ramsey is a named defendant accused of abusive arrests in the World Bank/IMF protests in 2002, where hundreds were arrested without probable cause and “hogtied” by being cuffed ankle to wrist. I am co-lead counsel in the case which is set to go to trial in April in Washington D.C. The case stems from when Ramsey was Chief of Police in Washington.

Here is the grand jury report: Grand Jury Investigation

Source: Philly

14 thoughts on “Two Philadelphia Police Officers Charged In Beating of Unarmed Suspect”

  1. The perp probably deserved to be beat. He didn’t corporate. maybe perp didn’t want to be told what to do like a lot of Spanish men, cops did an old school beating on his ass. Good. Maybe karma went back from his typical Spanish past from Kensington. The neighborhood was taken over by trash like the perp years ago. Too bad we can exterminate the whole spic neighborhood. F him. Hope him and his babies moms suffer. I feel bad for the cops and their families being in trouble for giving him a good ass kicking he had coming. Going to work risking their lives in Kensington. Oh man. The police are hearts in my eyes. Just put a barrier around the neighborhood and let the proud Puerto Ricans kill each other off and keep the cops out safe to go home to their families way away from there. Waste of space Ricans. Hope all the cop hating review writing retards I read. It would be so exciting if u or family member gets harmed by pieces of feces like this spic and handle it on your own. Forget calling 911, dumbasses. F ing media keep this shit out. F ing libtards. Hope the same harm to your families.

  2. That guy’s face presents quite a contrast with the embarrassed blush presented on the E.Room photos of the face of Michael Brown “victim,” Ferguson, Missouri Officer Wilson.

  3. Frank Rizzo also founded the Philadelphia Police League for Retarded Citizens – that boasted: ” We train retarded citizens in all aspects of crime…uh prevention.”

    Police – n. an armed force for protection and participation.

  4. Yuri, I disagree that the problem is hiring policies. I don’t think the situation will change until voters hold city councils, mayors, and the other supervising public officials to the fire when law enforcement abuses happen. Until the patrolmen know that they will be investigated and disciplined or fired for inappropriate conduct, it will continue to happen. Until the Police Chiefs and Sheriffs have a reason to make sure that the Captains and Sergeants have a good reason to put in the effort to impose that discipline, and every level suffers the consequences for misuses of power, and the supervisory failures that let the misuse of power happen, it won’t stop. Being “hard” on crime gets you elected, but being “hard” on crime by law enforcement officers gets you defeated. When that changes, abuses will lessen.

  5. Alex Trebek is just another reason to hate French Canadians. He is the classic, pompous Quebecer.

  6. “Let the Chips fall where they may.”

    What did Heather Thomas said to Erick Estrada after he got wasted on tequila at the Battle of the Network Stars after party and fell of his Motorcycle?

    Famous sayings of the 1970’s for $200 Alex.

  7. The facts of this case should be brought to the grand jury and these policemen should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Let the chips fall where they may.

  8. Why haven’t these guys been labeled criminals like the people in St. Louis who looted a North County market? Both involve criminal activity based on video evidence. The only difference is the power of each group. As this blog has said before, The principle of equality means to stand for it even when it is not in your favor. This case makes the power of police forces and law enforcement look illegitimate, which is not in this blog’s favor; however, if equality is truly a principle, here the same labels that applied to those criminals in Ferguson should apply here. Those people didn’t have their day in court either…

  9. Frank Rizzo was a crooked, law and order Chief of Police in Philly back in the 60’s/70’s. He created a thuggish police squad on par w/ the thuggish depts. in NYC, Chicago and NYC. Joe went on to become Mayor. My liberal bride was going to school in Iowa but spent a semester in DC. As a project, she went to Philly to help campaign against Rizzo. She lost. We learn more from our loses than we do from our victories. Or, at least we should.

  10. This nonsense is not going to stop until police departments change their hiring policy. Hiring lunies with a Middle School education and a Grammar School mentality is only going to end up with cops who are still angry about getting beat up by Ghetto girls in school with what they feel is a score to settle with anyone who dosen’t look like them

  11. Multiple news stories have, IMO, glossed over the fact that these officers hit his scooter with their vehicle, knocking him off. They ran him down! Unbelievable.

  12. JT nice of you to go after these officers, but you still have not blogged on the prosecutors that the Ninth Circuit wants prosecuted for perjury. They gave the state 48 hours to report the infraction to the AG of California.

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