PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Police Department says up to 20 officers were justified in beating and possibly tasering a black man, while calling him a “piece of shit.” Furthermore, officers had probable cause to charge him with assault and said he deliberately injured himself after getting beaten.
Video of 22-year-old Tyree Carroll’s beating was posted online Wednesday by Los Angeles-based journalist Jasmyne Cannick.
The video’s release has triggered an investigation by the Philly PD’s Internal Affairs Division. Police spokesman Lieutenant John Stanford said it was a drug bust in which the suspect violently resisted and even bit several officers.
“Beating someone while you call them a piece of shit, there’s no explanation for that, unless you want to admit you’re a racist,” Cannick told The Daily Beast.
On April 3 Carroll was riding his bike to his grandmother’s home in the northwest Philly neighborhood of East Germantown, where he lives, before officers said they stopped him for drugs. The official, preliminary police version of events released Thursday afternoon is as follows:
Undercover narcotics officers say at 11:44 p.m. they attempted to stop Carroll for an unspecified “narcotics violation.”
“As the officers stopped the defendant, he began to fight with the officers, biting one of the officers a total of three times.” The video doesn’t show Carroll starting the virtually one-sided fight.
Police say Carroll bit another officer during the melee, and that eventually “other responding officers arrived on location and were finally able to get the male into custody.” According to police, Carroll was carrying more than 5 grams of crack cocaine.
Police claim that Carroll was transported to the hospital to be treated for self-inflicted wounds “after intentionally striking his own head against the protective shield located in the police vehicle” —just like the spurious claim made against Freddie Gray.
Carroll is in jail awaiting his next court appearance on charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, and possession of crack cocaine. (Carroll is ineligible for bail because he was on probation at the time of his arrest.)
A family spokesperson told CBS News that Carroll admits to biting officers because they had him in a chokehold, which as an asthmatic caused him to fear for his life.
Regarding the use of Tasers, the police said: “The information that we have at this time indicates that use of force reports were completed at the time of the incident, indicating the strikes and control holds attempted during the incident. At this time there is no indication that an electronic control weapon was used despite hearing the officer state ‘here comes the taser.’”
There are serious questions about the police statement, not least of all that it is flatly contradicted by the narrator of the video, who says officers used their Tasers several times on the already-subdued Carroll.
“For hundreds of years, nothing has changed about how police treat black people,” Cannick said. “The only thing that is different is that now there is a mechanism, now everyone and their grandma is taking video, so now the public at-large has to see it.”
That’s exactly what happened in the case of Najee Rivera. Last February, Officers Kevin Robinson and Sean McKnight were charged with brutally beating Rivera after they knocked him off of his scooter with their patrol car in 2013. Then the officers filed charges against Rivera—who was still in the hospital for an orbital fracture--for assaulting officers during a lawful stop.
It was not until Rivera’s girlfriend brought video of the beating to authorities that the charges against Rivera were dropped and the district attorney and a grand jury began investigating the officers.
When The Daily Beast asked the D.A.’s office if it had reviewed the Carroll video, and if it had any plans for its own investigation, spokesman Cameron Kline responded succinctly: “The easy answer is, no.”
Kline explained that the D.A.’s procedure was to wait until Internal Affairs had completed its own investigation or until Internal Affairs or the department asked the district attorney to assist. Simply put: The police department is being left to investigate itself by the district attorney despite clear video evidence of excessive force.
The video of Carroll’s arrest proves at the very least that Philadelphia cannot simply take the word of its police or even trust the D.A. to watch the watchmen. An external review, perhaps by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, may be Carroll’s only chance of being cleared of trumped up charges and getting justice against the men who are sworn to protect and serve.