Originally published on February 8, 2015, at NationofChange.org
Two Philadelphia police officers were arrested this week for assaulting a man then falsely charging him with aggravated assault and resisting arrest. After the suspect’s girlfriend tracked down the surveillance camera that recorded the incident, the charges against the suspect were dropped. The video revealed the officers had lied about the suspect accidentally crashing his motor scooter and brutally attacking them.
Around 10pm on May 29, 2013, Philadelphia police officers Sean McKnight and Kevin Robinson pulled over Najee Rivera after allegedly running a Stop sign on his scooter. As the officers exited their patrol car with batons in hand, Rivera panicked and drove away in fear. The officers chased Rivera but never turned on their lights or siren.
They claimed Rivera lost control of his bike and fell off the scooter a few blocks away. After they exited their vehicle, the officers asserted that Rivera slammed Officer Robinson into a brick wall and began throwing elbows at him. While assaulting Robinson, Rivera allegedly attempted to take Officer McKnight’s baton before they finally subdued him.
Rivera was transported to Episcopal Hospital where he was treated for a fractured orbital bone and multiple lacerations to the face. McKnight and Robinson charged him with aggravated assault and resisting arrest. The next day, Rivera’s girlfriend Dina Scannapieco picked him up and drove Rivera back to the site where they beat him.
Finding Rivera’s blood still on the pavement, Scannapieco found a store with a surveillance camera aimed directly at the crime scene. The video revealed one of the officers reaching out the car window and clubbing Rivera in the head. After the patrol car rammed his scooter, Rivera fell to the ground.
The officers immediately exited their patrol car repeatedly striking Rivera with their fists and batons. Instead of fighting back, Rivera could be heard screaming in pain. After handcuffing Rivera, they left him bleeding on the ground and devised a story about him throwing elbows and trying to steal McKnight’s baton.
After watching the video, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey removed officers McKnight and Robinson from street duty. In August 2013, the charges against Rivera were dropped. On January 21, Rivera filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city. They agreed to settle for $200,000.
On Thursday, McKnight and Robinson were arrested and 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. They have also been suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss from the force.
Robinson was named in a similar lawsuit where he allegedly beat Darren Trammell and trumped-up false charges against him in 2012. Trammell also suffered a fractured orbital bone and lacerations during his arrest. After being cleared of the criminal charges against him, Trammell sued the city and won a $125,000 settlement. Robinson was never charged with the assault.
“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,” stated Police Commissioner Ramsey.