Family and friends of a 16-year-old Chester boy whose rough arrest last week by City of Chester police officers was captured on a witness’ cell phone camera gathered in front of the city’s police station Monday to demand that the arresting officers be fired and arrested at the conclusion of an investigation.
Supporters of Bahir Green — who included four sisters and strangers who were concerned about what they had seen on social media — said they did not know why he was arrested, but asserted that no matter why, police were not justified in knocking him to the ground and repeatedly punching him while his hands were raised in the air. The incident happened after three officers approached him after he crashed a car into a telephone pole at 10th and McDowell Streets just before 9:30 a.m. Friday.
“We will allow the system to work. However, nobody deserves to be beat on after they have submitted, and to be spit on. Nobody deserves that,” Zulene Mayfield, of Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living, told the crowd.
“If they do something, let the system hold them accountable. But you will not brutalize the individuals in this community. That is not going to happen. It can’t happen here. We are not animals. We are humans,” she added.
“I realize that it was just another day on the job for them, but that day, I believe, they tried to murder my brother. If it wasn’t for the many cell phones out that day, they would have succeeded,” said Shaniah Carlton, 17, Green’s sister.
“What we saw on that video was not community policing, it was an attack, an attack of a young person that happens too often,” said Joan Broadfield, of Municipal Police Accountability Coalition, a collection of Delaware County community groups.
“What happened to that young man was illegal, close to deadly, and has no place in a democracy,” she added. “We want respect for everyone.”
Chester and Delaware County officials were quick to respond to the concerns of Green’s supporters.
The District Attorney’s Office said the Chester Police Department referred the incident to the Special Investigations Unit within the DA’s Office, and the officers involved have been placed on desk duty.
“While the investigation is ongoing, we cannot comment on the specifics of the incident. However, we want to commend Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland and Police Commissioner Steven Gretsky for their quick and decisive action in making the referral, and in their commitment to transparency throughout this process,” District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said.
Kirkland and Gretsky released a statement giving the follow account of how the incident unfolded:
On Friday, just before 9:30 a.m., a Chester police officer observed a black 2014 KIA Sedan that had been reported stolen on Sept. 13 from the 900 block of Morton Avenue. As the officer attempted to stop the vehicle, Green drove away, striking another vehicle and a police vehicle on the way.
As Green continued driving down the 1000 Block of McDowell Avenue, he crashed into a telephone pole at 10th and McDowell. After he exited the vehicle, officers took Mr. Green to the ground and took him into custody,” according to a statement issued by the mayor and the police commissioner. “As the officers looked inside of the vehicle they recovered a black and silver Smith & Wesson pistol that was fully loaded from the vehicle.”
Green was transported back to police headquarters, then to Crozer-Chester Medical Center “for minor injuries from the car accident and the arrest,” the statement said. Green has a juvenile bench warrant that was issued in August 2021 for a firearms violation. He is now being housed at a juvenile detention facility in Uniontown, south of Pittsburgh.
The statement said Chester officials had spoken with Green’s family, but the family members said no one from the city had spoken to them as of Monday’s 4 p.m. news conference. They also objected to Green being sent to a detention center five hours away instead of a closer facility.
“The placement of the juvenile in Fayette County is a direct result of the lack of a juvenile detention facility in Delaware County. Consistent with standard practice, the county’s juvenile probation department has worked to find the closest available spot for this juvenile. Unfortunately, in this case the result was Fayette County,” Stollsteimer said. “Delaware County has no control over the availability of space for our juveniles at our surrounding counties.”
Green’s oldest sister and guardian, Shakurah Hanton, 22, broke down telling the audience that her brother is a good kid who turned 16 on Sept. 1, but lacks direction since the recent death of their mother and the absence of a father figure in his life.
“He comes from a family of loving people. I just want him to know, and if he was see this, we do love you, Bahir, and it wasn’t right and we’re not going to let them sweep this under the rug like everything else.”
Bahirah Green, 16, Bahir’s twin sister, said, “they could have went about that situation way different than they did … That’s unacceptable, way unacceptable.”