A former high-ranking member of the Philadelphia Police Department is facing a second civil-rights lawsuit stemming from allegations that he used excessive force during the 2020 racial justice protests.
Joseph Bologna was sued Monday in federal court in Philadelphia by Evan Gorski, a Temple University student who said he sustained a head wound — which required 10 staples to close — when Bologna beat him with a metal baton amid demonstrations near the entrance to the Vine Street Expressway on June 1, 2020.
Bologna, a 31-year veteran who was arrested and later fired because of the incident, is also facing criminal charges. He has maintained he never struck Gorski on the head, despite a video of their encounter shared widely on social media.
He was also sued in October by a Montgomery County woman who said he attacked her the following day during protests at 10th and Market Streets.
Gorski’s lawsuit says Bologna struck him about two inches below the crown of his head, then conspired with two other police officers — Brandon McPoyle and Brian Dillard — to “cover up” the attack by filing “false and fabricated” criminal charges against Gorski, alleging that he had caused McPoyle to suffer a broken hand.
Gorski, 23, maintains that he didn’t assault McPoyle or any other officer.
“The violence and the outright lies we see in this case are stunning,” said Gorski’s attorney, Jonathan Feinberg.
The suit names Bologna, McPoyle, and Dillard as defendants, along with the City of Philadelphia. The city and police officials declined to comment Monday. Lawyers for Bologna did not immediately respond to inquiries about the lawsuit.
The video of the chaotic scene on June 1, 2020, shows Gorski reaching out to grab the arm of another protester, who was being pulled in two directions simultaneously. When Bologna turned to Gorski and raised his baton, Gorski backed away and briefly covered his own face with his hand. Bologna then struck him forcefully with the baton.
The video has been viewed 7 million times on Twitter. The footage prompted District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office to drop charges against Gorski and file assault charges against Bologna. Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw suspended Bologna days later and then fired him.
Bologna’s criminal trial is scheduled for next month. He is facing charges of simple assault and possession of an instrument of crime. Those charges, as well as felony aggravated assault charges, were initially dismissed last year by a municipal court judge who ruled there was insufficient evidence.
But in August 2021, Common Pleas Court Judge Crystal Bryant-Powell reinstated the two misdemeanor counts and questioned whether Bologna needed to use the baton, since Gorski “clearly retreats” and “almost cowers down” before Bologna swung.
One of Bologna’s attorneys, Fortunato Perri Jr., has asserted in court that “there was never a strike to the head,” and that the gash in Gorski’s head was likely caused when he and Bologna fell to the ground.
Gorski, in an interview with The Inquirer, said Bologna hit him in the head.
“I was struck on the head by the baton. I saw it happen. I have a head gash. We have video. He swung pretty hard,” said Gorski, adding: “I am certain that the ASP is what caused the laceration,” referring to the type of batons used by police.
Bologna was also seen on video on May 31, 2020, lunging at a FOX 29 reporter and striking his security guard with a baton — even as the reporter repeatedly identified himself as a member of the press.
Shoshana Akins, a participation planner at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, has said Bologna deliberately twisted her fingers while she was restrained, to the point that she feared they would break. There is no video of that alleged incident.
Feinberg, Gorski’s attorney, said the allegations against Bologna made during the protests, as well as allegations of misconduct earlier in his career, demonstrate a pattern of behavior that makes Police Department and city leaders culpable of violating his client’s civil rights.
“The case is another in a long line in which Philadelphia police officers respond to peaceful protest — and especially protest against police brutality — by suppressing that protest,” Feinberg said.
Bologna has the backing of the Fraternal Order of Police. When he surrendered in June 2020 to face the assault charges, more than 100 officers gathered at the union headquarters in Northeast Philadelphia and applauded as he left to show their support. The FOP quickly began selling “Bologna Strong” T-shirts to raise money for him.
Gorski, who attended Quaker schools before Temple and is a believer in nonviolent confrontation, said he felt it was his “duty” to join the protests after he saw Minneapolis police murder George Floyd. He said he’s grateful his clash with police was captured on video so he didn’t have to fight false charges, and hopes the lawsuit will lead to larger changes in policing.
“I’m doing this because I want to hold the city of Philadelphia accountable, hold these officers accountable, to the best and biggest degree that I can,” he said. “I’m not doing this for personal gain. I’m doing it to help the city.”
Read the lawsuit: