A high-ranking Philadelphia police official will be charged with assault after video surfaced of him beating a Temple University student with a baton during a protest Monday along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, District Attorney Larry Krasner said Friday.
Krasner, who days earlier had declined to prosecute the student, said Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna Jr. will face counts of felony aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and possession of an instrument of crime — his police baton.
Bologna, a 31-year veteran of the force, was removed from street duty and had his gun taken away Thursday evening, according to police sources.
The move came just hours after Police Commissioner Daniele Outlaw had pledged a more thorough and methodical Internal Affairs investigation with results that might not be known for some time.
Krasner, in contrast, decided to move more swiftly.
“We are trying to be fair,” he said in a statement. “Accountability has to be equal, and this moment demands a swift and evenhanded response to violent and criminal acts.”
Later, Outlaw said she had “not been made privy to the entirety of the information that led to Mr. Krasner’s decision" and that the Police Department’s investigation would continue.
John McNesby, head of the city’s police union, came to Bologna’s defense, calling him one of the city’s “most decorated and respected police leaders” who had to make a split-second call in a chaotic situation.
He condemned Krasner as rushing to judgment and questioned the number of protesters arrested for allegedly assaulting officers who have been released from jail as prosecutors declined to pursue cases against them.
“Why are officers not afforded those same basic rights?" McNesby asked in a statement.
By Friday evening, talk was circulating about a “blue flu," or organized move by officers to call in sick in solidarity with Bologna, as another round of demonstrations, with crowds anticipated in the thousands, was set to take place Saturday in central Philadelphia. Command staff warned that such a move would only put other officers at risk.
“While it may feel good and provide satisfaction in the moment, [it] will only lead to the potential of other officers and supervisors being seriously injured,” Capt. Christine McShea of the 16th District in West Philadelphia wrote in an email to her staff. “While it may feel like punishment to the administration, it really only punishes other officers.”
Bologna did not respond to a request for comment before he was charged on Friday. He told WHYY, “Right now, I’m handling operations from the office," but declined to elaborate.
The Inquirer reported Thursday afternoon that charges against Evan Gorski, 21, a Temple engineering student, were dropped after Krasner reviewed evidence that included video of Gorski’s Monday encounter with Bologna during demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Gorski’s attorney, R. Emmett Madden, said 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 the officer to break a hand. In the video, Gorski — with a ponytail and wearing an Eagles jersey — is seen briefly attempting to separate an officer and a protester, but immediately retreats when Bologna raises his baton.
The video shows Bologna then striking Gorski sharply on or near his head and tackling 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.
Other video clips have since emerged on social media showing Bologna involved in similarly aggressive behavior toward people protesting oppressive policing.
One video shows him on Sunday lunging at a TV reporter and striking a security guard. In another from Tuesday, Bologna throws his bike and tackles a woman who had apparently tapped its tire while protesting at 10th and Market Streets, immediately causing tensions to flare between police and protesters.
“The man I saw that night, even before his run-in with that young woman, was obviously pushed to his limit," said Dominic Carullo, 36, a grad student who was at the march. "Hyper-vigilant, reactive, angry, and dangerous.”
At a news conference Friday, Outlaw acknowledged that Bologna is one of several officers under investigation after videos on social media depict them using force during this week’s protests in a manner that “does not appear to be in accord with our policy.”
She called the videos of Bologna particularly troubling because they appeared to show him striking someone above the neck — a use of force that could be potentially lethal.
“I am deeply concerned about this,” she said. “I assure you that each of these investigations will be conducted in a thorough and objective manner without undue delay.”
Speaking before Krasner announced that he would charge the officer, Outlaw said it was too early to conclude that Bologna had crossed a line.
The videos provide just “one snapshot of what happened,” she said. “An investigation will tell us what led up to that, will give us the circumstances around it, once we have the opportunity to interview the inspector himself to find out what he was thinking at the time he made the decision to use force. It’s not just cut and dried.”
Contacted later, a police spokesperson declined to say how many officers had been pulled from their assignments pending investigations.