2 Philadelphia officers charged with assaulting man on scooter

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

PHILADELPHIA -- Two Philadelphia police officers are being charged with the assault of a man in May 2013 that was caught on surveillance and reporting a false account of the incident.

Officers Kevin Robinson and Sean McKnight have been charged with Aggravated Assault, Simple Assault, Criminal Conspiracy, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Tampering with Public Records or Information, False Reports to Law Enforcement Authorities, Obstructing Administration of Law, and Official Oppression.

In a Thursday morning press conference, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams says the two officers were seen on video beating 23-year-old Najee Rivera.

Around 10:00 p.m. on May 29, 2013, near North 7th and Somerset streets, McKnight, a seven year veteran of the force, and Robinson, a six year veteran of the force, both of the 25th Police District pulled over Rivera on his motor scooter.

Police say Rivera became frightened and drove away.

According to Williams, the officers originally told the police department a different story on what happened next, one which a grand jury found to be fictitious.

Robinson and McKnight said Rivera was injured after falling off his scooter and hitting the pavement.

In the officers' story, they said Rivera resisted arrest, tried to grab a police baton, and that's when one of the officers hit him in the face.

Police charged Rivera with resisting arrest and aggravated assault. However, prior to the case going to court, a surveillance video emerged from a nearby store.

"The video undermined every aspect of the officers' account of the incident. A grand jury found none of it was true except for the blows inflicted on Najee Rivera," Williams said.

Williams said Rivera didn't just fall off his scooter, but one of the officers can be seen on the video reaching out the window of the patrol control and clubbing Rivera in the head.

The car bumped the scooter and Rivera fell to the ground.

Both officers got of the vehicle, Williams said, and repeatedly struck Rivera with their fists and baton.

"He never resisted. He never struck them. He never fought back. They just started hitting him," Williams said.

Williams said Rivera can be heard screaming for help on the video.

After the beating, the D.A. says Rivera was handcuffed and for several minutest they kept him there while he was bleeding.

Rivera received a fractured orbital bone and numerous lacerations to his head.

The charges were dropped for Rivera.

"Hopefully this case will show Philadelphians that our system here works," Williams said.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says Robinson and McKnight have been suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss from the force.

They were removed from street duty in 2013 when Ramsey became aware of the new facts.

"As tough as it is, as painful as it is, not just for me, but for the hardworking men and women of the Philadelphia police department to go out there every day and do the job properly, every one of these people who gets removed from our department brings us a step closer to having the kind of police department that people in this city deserve and that the members of this department who are doing their job the right way deserve to work alongside," Ramsey said.