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‘Police just went nuts’: Charges dropped after video surfaces of police beating student, other protesters with batons

A police spokesperson declined to comment on the circumstances of Evan Gorski’s arrest, but said the incident is being investigated. “The propriety of the tactics employed will be included in that investigation.”

Screengrab of video footage shows police clashing with protesters early Monday evening near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Witnesses said the attack seemed unprovoked.
Screengrab of video footage shows police clashing with protesters early Monday evening near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Witnesses said the attack seemed unprovoked.Read moreMatthew VanDyke

Updates: In the days since this report was published, Philadelphia Police Inspect Joseph Bologna surrendered to face aggravated assault and other charges; and then was suspended with intent to dismiss after a new accusation of using excessive force.

» READ MORE: Read the criminal complaint charging Philly police inspector Joseph Bologna with assaulting a protester

A Temple University student arrested during protests Monday was released from custody Wednesday after video surfaced of one police officer striking him in the head with a baton and another using his knee to pin the student’s face to the street.

Prosecutors dismissed the charges against Evan Gorski, 21, an engineering student, after viewing the YouTube and Twitter videos, according to his attorney, R. Emmett Madden.

Madden said Thursday that he had been told by court personnel that Gorski was being held on allegations that he assaulted a police officer by pushing him off a bike, causing him to break a hand.

Eight seconds into the 36-second video, Gorski — with a ponytail and wearing the Eagles jersey — appears to reach in to separate an officer and a protester, and immediately retreats when another officer raises his baton.

That officer then strikes Gorski sharply on or near his head and tackles him, while another officer presses Gorski’s face to the pavement by placing his knee on the back of his head and neck. Madden said Gorski required medical treatment.

» READ MORE: In Philadelphia on Thursday, protesters demand police reforms as elected officials say they’re listening

Police sources say that the baton-wielding officer is a high-ranking member of the force, Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna. He earns $126,339 a year, according to city payroll records. The sources said Bologna was taken off street duty Thursday evening after this article was published. He handed in his gun pending an investigation. He has not been charged with a crime or departmental violation.

Bologna could not immediately be reached for comment Friday morning.

» READ MORE: Kenney gave Philly cops raises and shielded them from coronavirus layoffs. Protesters aren’t happy.

Inspector Sekou Kinebrew, a police spokesperson, declined to comment Thursday on the circumstances of Gorski’s arrest, but said the incident is being investigated by the department’s Internal Affairs Division. “The propriety of the tactics employed will be included in that investigation,” Kinebrew said.

“The police were lying,” Madden said. “We had a protest against police brutality, and then police brutalize my client and try to frame him for a crime he didn’t commit.”

Gorski could not be reached Thursday.

A spokesperson for District Attorney Larry Krasner on Thursday evening said: “The video is concerning in more than one way. The District Attorney’s Office and District Attorney Krasner himself carefully reviewed the case presented by the police, other evidence, and then declined it.”

Matthew VanDyke, a former documentary filmmaker who captured footage of the clash, said protesters on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway had been peaceful, and that police started pushing them onto the Park Towne Place property.

“We didn’t even know where exactly they wanted us to go,” VanDyke said. “They just started beating people. It was a bizarre escalation of force that came out of nowhere. The police just went nuts.”

Brendan Lowry, founder of the @Peopledelphia Instagram account, also captured video. He said the small group of protesters were peaceful and that the beating and Gorski’s arrest “felt unprovoked.”

“Their job is to deescalate violence and protect our right to protest,” Lowry said of police. “In this case, they did the opposite.”

» READ MORE: Outrage over police injustice is older than the nation

Video shows officers striking several people with batons. The incident occurred around 5:30 p.m., shortly after protesters on the Vine Street Expressway had been teargassed.

“I’ve been in plenty of conflict zones,” VanDyke said, “but I’ve never seen anything like this in America with my own eyes.”

City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart announced Thursday that she would hire an expert to review the city’s response to the civil unrest. “Teargassing our people is not something we’re used to seeing here in Philadelphia,” she said.

Rhynhart, who viewed the video of Gorski’s arrest, called it “disturbing.” She said her report would be made public and would examine the city’s operational and resource deployment, as well as police tactics during the protests.

Staff writer Dylan Purcell contributed to this article.