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Philadelphia Cops Charged After Being Caught on Video Beating Man With Batons

Nearly two years after the incident that left a 23-year-old man with broken facial bones, a district court judge has filed multiple charges against the cops, including aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

by VICE News
Feb 10 2015, 8:05pm

Photo via Philadelphia Police Department

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Two Philadelphia police officers have been charged with brutality in connection with the 2013 assault on Najee Rivera, nearly two years after the altercation left him with a fractured orbital bone and a swollen shut black eye.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams filed charges against officers Kevin Robinson and Sean McKnight, who are accused of beating Rivera while placing him under arrest on May 29, 2013, according to a report from the Philadelphia Inquirer. The charges against the cops include aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and tampering with public records.

In accounts given to investigators after the incident, the officers claimed Rivera ran away from them when they attempted to pull him over for running a stop sign. They said they later observed Rivera fall off his scooter. When they approached him, the pair claimed he pushed one of the officers up against a brick wall and "threw elbows," while attempting to grab a baton from McKnight.

The 23-year-old's girlfriend Dina Scannapieco, however, tracked down surveillance video of the altercation, which refuted the officers' accounts and was ultimately used as evidence in Rivera's trial.

Contrary to the version of the story told by the officers, Williams said when they approached Rivera initially, McKnight and Robinson exited their vehicle with batons in hand and scared him away, yelling, "come here!" After he fled, Williams said the officers followed him in their car, but did not turn on their lights or sirens. The video shows that when they eventually tracked Rivera down, the cops toppled him off the scooter with their vehicle. The officers then proceeded to punch him and hit him with their batons.

A grand jury ultimately decided that McKnight and Robinson's version of events was false, and the charges against Rivera were dropped.

"Although he was moving around on the ground while being struck, he was not resisting the officers or engaging in any aggressive act," the jurors reportedly said.

Rivera was awarded a $200,000 settlement for pain and suffering.

Along with the charges filed on Thursday, both of the officers turned themselves over to the police department. They were immediately suspended, with Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey saying he plans to dismiss them. This was in addition to the pair being taken off street patrol after the commissioner saw the video.

Ramsey faulted the department for not surveying the area, and for accepting the officers' account of the incident as fact. The commissioner said the cops actions, however, did not represent the majority of the city's police force.

"But I cannot stand here and say I've got 6,500 police officers that always operate within the framework of the law, within the framework of department policy," he said. "We've got to root them out."