A Philadelphia police officer is under investigation after a video of him apparently striking a woman and knocking her to the ground near the route of a parade went viral on YouTube.
The Philadelphia Inquirer identified the man as highway patrol supervisor Jonathan Josey II, 39, a 19-year veteran of the department. Josey was captured in the 36-second video, taken Sunday at a street party following the city’s Puerto Rican Day Parade, appearing to hit Aida Guzman, also 39, of Chester, Pa., a domestic worker. The woman was charged with disorderly conduct, accused of throwing water at a group of officers which seems to have included Josey.
The video however, shows an unidentified man throwing the water which draws the attention of Josey — who then follows Guzman, who happens to have a bottle of water in her hand. After she walks away from the officers, he hits her with his right fist, knocking her to the ground, and then puts her in handcuffs and leads her off as her mouth bleeds.
Guzman maintained that she didn’t throw anything at the officer, a claim the video seems to support. Her daughter, Kay, who translated Guzman’s statements from Spanish, said the woman did not deserve such treatment from the 6-foot-3, 215 pound officer. “If she did it or if she didn’t, he had no right to hit her like that,” Kay Guzman told the Inquirer. “The video says everything. We are angry.”
“We’re just trying to get our arms around what happened in the response, beyond that, the rest is under investigation,” Deputy police commissioner Richard Ross told WPVI. “We do not know whether there’s something prior to that that would appear to justify [Josey's] actions or after that, but right now, what we saw was a little disturbing.” The department has placed him on desk duty pending the investigation.
Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League, an organization comprised of Philadelphia’s African American police officers, told the newspaper she could not speak much about the incident because the investigation is still open. But Bilal expressed dismay at what was depicted. “What I’ve seen is not what I would like any police officer to do to anyone,” she said. “I don’t know what the investigation is going to reveal . . . but to me, that behavior is deplorable.”
Josey himself has served as vice president of the Guardian Civic League, the Inquirer said. He was also honored for preventing a robbery in which he fatally shot a man who was pulling a gun from his waistband. But he has also racked up as many as 13 citizen complaints by people who claimed he had abused them in some way. All the accusations were determined to be unfounded.
The city also paid $7,500 in 2007 after another incident in which Josey was found to have punched, kicked and thrown a man against a wall. He was also stabbed while intervening in a fight between two women and an off-duty female officer. One woman was convicted and sentenced to 9 to 20 years in prison.
In an opinion piece written in 2010 for the Philadelphia Daily News on police brutality, Josey criticized the critics of Philadelphia police.
“It never fails that any time a Philadelphia police officer uses deadly force during the course of his duties, along come the cries of outrage from the neighborhood,” he wrote. “When an officer shoots someone, witnesses come out of the woodwork, but when reckless hoodlums lay siege to these same streets, nobody sees a thing.”