Philly SWAT cop charged with assault for pepper-spraying kneeling protesters on video

“The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office will not make excuses for crimes committed by law enforcement that demean the democratic freedoms so many Americans have fought and died to preserve.”

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Recorded on cellphone video sadistically pepper-spraying three protesters kneeling on the ground, a Philadelphia SWAT officer was recently charged with assaulting the demonstrators. According to the video, the first protester was kneeling in submission when the officer ripped off her eyewear and fired pepper spray directly in her face.

Around 5 p.m. on June 1, the Philadelphia SWAT Unit responded to a large group of protesters who had caused traffic to stop on I-676. Despite the fact that news reports and videos depicted a peaceful protest against police brutality, the officers fired Oleoresin Capsicum (“OC”) spray into the crowd.

A bystander recorded a video of three protesters passively kneeling in the road as SWAT Officer Richard Nicoletti approached them with a canister of OC spray in his hand. Suddenly pulling down the first protester’s goggles, Nicoletti immediately fired pepper spray point-blank into her face.

Without hesitation, Nicoletti moved to the second kneeling protester and shot OC spray into her face as well. According to a press release from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, Nicoletti “proceeded to the third protester, who was sitting hunched over to protect his face with his legs crossed. Officer Nicoletti reached down, grabbed and violently threw the protester onto his back, continually spraying him with OC while he was lying down and standing back up. Unable to see due to the OC spray, the protester swung at the officer, without contact. The protestor was left on his feet in close proximity to moving traffic on the other side of 676, unable to see.

“The fourth protester who was standing nearby was not sprayed. None of the four were taken into police custody. None of the three protesters who were assaulted were offered medical treatment, and all were left to walk on 676 while their eyesight was impaired. All required assistance from other protesters to safely get off 676.”

Last month, Nicoletti was suspended from the Philadelphia Police Department for 30 days with intent to dismiss. On Wednesday, District Attorney Larry Krasner announced that Nicoletti has been charged with one count of possession of an instrument of crime and three counts each of simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, and official oppression.

“Thanks to the investigative work of Philadelphia Police Internal Affairs and careful, additional investigation done by the DAO Special Investigations Unit, we are moving forward today with evenhanded justice. Great care has gone into our factual investigation to get the truth. We are also keeping our sworn oath to uphold the Constitution,” District Attorney Krasner stated on Wednesday. “The complaint alleges that Officer Nicoletti broke the laws he was sworn to uphold and that his actions interfered with Philadelphians’ and Americans’ peaceful exercise of their sacred constitutional rights of free speech and assembly. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office will not make excuses for crimes committed by law enforcement that demean the democratic freedoms so many Americans have fought and died to preserve. Let’s be clear on who is the source of governmental and police power: People are the source of that power — the people’s votes and the people’s taxes. Let’s be clear on who built these highways and streets: These streets come from and belong to the people. In the words of generations of peaceful protesters committed to improving our country, which is what patriots do: ‘Whose streets!? Our streets!!’”

On June 5, Krasner announced harsher assault charges against Philadelphia Police Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna, who was recorded on video using a collapsible metal baton to strike a Temple University student in the back of his head while participating in a mass demonstration against racism and injustice in the area of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Bologna was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, possession of an instrument of crime, and recklessly endangering another person.

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