The two Black Lives Matter protesters stood on Girard Avenue directly across the street from the 26th District police station in Fishtown just before 7 p.m., almost an hour after the city’s curfew. An agitated mob of white men, some with bats and metal pipes, paced around as Capt. William Fisher and other officers watched.
It was the shouting that initially caught Fisher’s attention on that June 1 night.
In a video provided to The Inquirer, the burly captain crosses the street toward the two protesters, a man and a woman, as they trade angry words with two men, Richie Goodwin and Joseph Markley.
Markley breathes heavily on them, saying he’ll give them the coronavirus. Then he spits at them.
“What the f— is wrong with you?” the man asks them.
“Get out of my neighborhood — that’s what’s wrong with me!” Markley yells.
Markley, armed with a wrench, tussles with the woman, yanking at her “I Can’t Breathe” sign.
Then, without provocation, Goodwin violently shoves the male protester. Fisher, the captain, shoos Goodwin away.
Both of the men were known to police. Goodwin, 44, had served prison time for delivering a fatal punch to a man during a 2008 brawl. His brother is a 26th District police officer. Markley pleaded guilty in 2011 for his role in a prescription forgery and drug trafficking ring that peddled OxyContin and Percocet in Fishtown.
Fishtown resident Erika Johnson captured the altercation — and Fisher’s response — on video as she stood behind the protesters. She was incensed.
“I have a question. How can they have bats and metal f—ing tools?,” she says to the officers while recording. “This is insane.”
That night, dozens of Fishtown residents called 911 or the 26th District to complain that they felt unsafe. Seven residents independently told reporters that dispatchers and officers dismissed their concerns and said the armed white men weren’t doing anything illegal.
In all, there were 36 reports of a “person with a weapon” between 4 and 10 p.m. During that time, officers arrested no one on any charge within a half-mile of the district headquarters, according to department records provided by police spokesperson Sekou Kinebrew.
But one man, who is Black, is seen in handcuffs in a video posted on Twitter by WHYY producer Jon Ehrens at 8 p.m. on Flora Street, a few blocks from headquarters. Seven officers encircle him as one leads him away. The officers had chased him because he was seen moments earlier with a hatchet, photos and videos show. When asked to clarify, Kinebrew said that “without context, I can’t say for certain if that video depicts an arrest” or rather “a temporary detainment.”
Earlier in the night, photos and video showed roughly 20 officers on the street just outside the police station. Some chatted with the men with bats. Others shared pizza, sandwiches, and bottled water with the vigilantes, who said they were there to protect police and their neighborhood from would-be looters.
The District Attorney’s Office and the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division have launched investigations into any potential wrongdoing by Fisher and his subordinates. Fisher, through Kinebrew, declined to be interviewed by The Inquirer. Kinebrew cited the Internal Affairs investigation.
Inquirer reporters also recently spoke with six residents who said prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity and Special Investigations Unit had interviewed them. District Attorney Larry Krasner, who built a career defending the rights of protesters before being elected in 2017, said he would not confirm or deny an investigation.
Investigators are wading through photos and videos that surfaced on social media and pinged around the nation — fueling growing public opinion that policing in Philadelphia and America is unequal and broken. The images from Fishtown are in stark contrast to those from Center City that same day, when officers pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, and shot rubber bullets at peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters. Police also arrested people there only minutes after the 6 p.m. curfew.
“I think police should do their jobs, which are to apply the law in a way that is evenhanded,” Krasner said in an interview last week. “And I find it very problematic when you see law enforcement favoring one group over another and systematically refraining from reining in one group that is committing crimes.”
‘Why aren’t you arresting them?’
Erika Johnson was so disturbed by what she saw on June 1 that she emailed the District Attorney’s Office the next night. She described the confrontation.
“One of the men said he was going to give [the two protesters] coronavirus and got very close and breathed heavily on them,” she wrote in the June 2 email to an assistant district attorney. “The men (one was holding a wrench) then got in our faces asking to fight … the other man shoved one of the protesters. The police came over and just told the two men to leave.”
She attached her 32-second video clip. She also recounted a conversation, not on video, that she said she had with an officer who was on the scene with Fisher at the time. The officer told her that the men “were allowed to protect their neighborhood,” and that it’s legal to carry a wrench or a bat.
“I asked how it was legal when they were clearly intent on starting violence. The cop told me, `This sounds silly, but for all I know they are going to play baseball,‘” Johnson wrote. “I also brought up that it was after curfew, yet these people were allowed outside with weapons and were not being told to go home.”
About 7:45 p.m., Johnson wrote, police used a patrol-car loudspeaker to ask the mob to leave, then said, “Thanks for coming.”
Assistant District Attorney Brett Zakeosian spoke with Johnson on June 3. He was “mostly interested” in the cops, asking if she got badge numbers or names. He asked for a physical description of the officers, she said.
Speaking generally, Krasner said any officer who witnessed violence and did nothing could be charged with a crime.
“I think that there are a ton of great police officers in Philadelphia, but we would all agree that if police stood by, with or without orders from their supervisor, and allowed a lynching, that is a crime — that is official oppression,” Krasner said. “Probably a lot of other things too, depending on how they behave, obstructing the administration of justice. We would agree that’s completely unacceptable.”
The bar is high for such charges, however. Prosecutors must prove officers saw an assault take place and knew the incident was a crime but failed to act. That scenario could be a breach of official duty. Any case would be more difficult if the victim does not come forward and file a criminal complaint with authorities.
The female protester whom Markley spat on and jostled said she filed a complaint with the District Attorney’s Office. She asked The Inquirer to withhold her name because she lives in Fishtown and feared retaliation.
“When the chief [Fisher] came over, we were like, ‘Why aren’t you arresting them?’ and they’re like, ‘They’re not doing anything wrong. The only thing we could really do is maybe give them a citation,‘ ” she recalled last week.
The man who was shoved by Goodwin has not contacted authorities. He declined to be named, and said he is gay and concerned for his safety. Some in the mob hurled homophobic slurs at protesters that night, according to videos and eyewitness accounts.
Johnson said she believes that Fisher saw Goodwin attack the protester. In the video, Fisher walks toward them. He says something inaudible to Goodwin, who then leaves.
“He was across the street, in viewing distance,” Johnson said. “The officers were close by. That’s when they stepped in to make it stop.”
Markley, 42, did not return phone calls, an email, and a Facebook message from a reporter. In an interview, Goodwin said he doesn’t know exactly why he pushed the protester.
“I became something that I’m not,” Goodwin said about his physical and verbal attacks on people that night, adding that he’s “not a racist.” “Now they are saying everywhere that I’m this white supremacist. It’s scary.”
‘I was just angry’
After a weekend of chaos and looting at stores in nearby Port Richmond, Fishtown residents and 26th District officers awoke Monday to a sense of unease. Fisher would later say that some residents told police that they had heard rumors, spread on social media, that “antifa was planning to come into Fishtown with the intentions of destruction.”
While President Donald Trump has branded antifa a “Terrorist Organization,” antifa is a loosely organized, diverse group of antifascists, who often hold political views that lean far left and have been associated with aggressive protest techniques like vandalism.
Fisher instructed officers to set up barricades around the district station.
Fishtown resident Justin Haskell, 37, sent texts, made phone calls, and put up various Facebook posts that he was on his way to protect the neighborhood. Armed with a bat, he called himself an organizer, not to fight protesters but to prevent people from smashing or igniting cars, and breaking into homes and mom-and-pop stores.
“We were there for protection and to make sure everything was all right,” Haskell later told a reporter, adding that he supports the Black Lives Matter movement. Haskell has an open drug case in Bucks County and pleaded guilty in Philadelphia in 2007 to simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.
While on Facebook live that day, Haskell tells viewers he’s not ashamed of his criminal record and asks anyone on probation to come out and help. “If you haven’t been stabbed at least once, you’re not from the neighborhood,” he says.
At one point, a video shows an unidentified officer telling Haskell, “Listen, I appreciate the support.... I hear that you guys are pro-police.... Do me a favor? It’s curfew right now. We’re going to arrest these guys across the street. We want to make it easy. If you could talk to your crew to go home.”
Haskell said he showed up at the 26th District on Girard Avenue with about 20 men who had joined in. The crowd soon swelled to dozens, some of whom spouted racist and homophobic slurs, and walked around menacingly with bats and heavy, metal garden tools, video shows.
Scott Hearn, a 34-year-old Fishtown resident, said that while he was following a man to ask why he had a hatchet, another man told him they were there to protect the neighborhood. “I live here,” Hearn told him. “Then shut up! I’ll burn your house down!” he said the man retorted.
A police officer in a white shirt was about six feet away, Hearn said. The ranks of sergeant and above wear white shirts in Philadelphia.
“He saw the guy threatening me. I asked the cop why he wasn’t doing anything. He has a hatchet,” he said. “The cop told me to stop escalating it and to go home.”
Hearn said he complained to the District Attorney’s Office and was interviewed about the incident as part of its investigation.
Matt Williams and Kara Khan, both 31, also talked to the District Attorney’s Office on Tuesday afternoon about what happened to them June 1.
They were biking on Girard, headed home after cops tear gassed them at a Black Lives Matter protest on 676, when someone threw a water bottle at Williams’ head. Khan got off her bike to walk toward the men, some of whom she could see wielded bats.
“They got in my face and called me a f—ing n— lover,” Khan said.
”How could you let this happen?” Khan said she asked the cops who stood near them. “Why aren’t you doing anything?”
“Now you know how we feel,” she said one cop told her.
In the meantime, a man whom Williams later found out was Goodwin shoved him off his bike. Then Goodwin and at least one other man beat him. Photos show Williams on his knees, with his hands held over his head in an effort to shield the blows. Two women helped him up while blood dripped from his head and an ear.
Goodwin told The Inquirer that Williams started the fight by spitting on him. Williams said he spat at no one. There is no video of the assault, only photos that do not include any police officers. It is unclear if an officer saw the attack.
“I regret what happened, but I felt his warm spit on my face,” Goodwin said. “I’m not proud of it, but I couldn’t control myself. I was just angry.”
Goodwin was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in an alcohol-fueled fistfight with a man in June 2008. He was on probation when he was arrested in March 2012 in connection with a DUI. A judge sentenced him to a maximum of four years in prison, court records show.
Jimmy Bradley, a 50-year-old Fishtown native who pleaded guilty in connection with the “Operation Fishtown Refill” drug-trafficking ring along with Markley in 2011, was one of the three people seen in photos standing over Williams while he is on his knees. In one frame, Bradley, in a green sweatshirt, has a beer in one hand and the other hand on Williams’ head.
Reached outside a neighborhood bar, Bradley told a reporter that Williams was saying, “F— Fishtown,” and spitting while biking up Girard. Bradley denied striking him.
“Two people were punching him,” Bradley said. “I was trying to help the dude. I said, ‘Knock it off. That’s enough. I was trying to pick him up.…. I told him he’s lucky that’s all that happened to him.”
‘I’m a cannibal'
About 5:15 p.m. on June 1, Fishtown resident Leah Shepperd said she was standing holding a Black Lives Matter sign across the street from the 26th District station. A group of white men, including Goodwin, strode toward her, crossing four lanes of Girard with no apparent regard for moving cars.
What happened next was recorded by onlookers in at least two cellphone videos.
“You’re not going to wreck our neighborhood. Our families live here,” shouts a man in a blue sweatshirt and baseball cap and holding a shillelagh, a wooden walking club. “Why don’t it say ‘all lives matter’?”
He pounds the shillelagh into the asphalt for emphasis. “Plain and simple, we don’t live like this,” he says. “A cop can’t defend himself. So we’re here. Anyone wants to throw s— at a cop or pick on a cop, pick one of us the f— out and we’ll go around the corner and fight youse, one on one.”
Goodwin then says to Shepperd’s spouse, Jaime Alvarez, “Me and you, let’s go for a walk.”
Moments later, Goodwin fumes, “I’ll f— you up. I’ll f—ing eat you. … I’m a cannibal. I’m f—ing deadly serious.”
Another neighborhood man, 43-year-old Franny Burke, then lunges at Shepperd. Burke holds a baseball bat in one hand; he uses his free hand to snatch the Black Lives Matter sign out of Shepperd’s hand.
Burke also has a criminal record. He pleaded guilty in 2018 to stalking his ex-wife, “repeatedly causing acts to cause fear,” and violating a restraining order. At the time, he was prohibited from going to parts of Fishtown, court records show.
Last week, Shepperd and Alvarez said they believe the phrase “Black Lives Matter” enraged Burke.
“All we were doing is just holding up a sign, silently. We weren’t yelling. We weren’t saying anything vulgar,” Alvarez said.
In another video from that night, Burke angrily says, “F— them n—s!” when Haskell, who was livestreaming, asks him to tell viewers on social media why they are out there. “Nah, that’s not what it’s about,” Haskell quickly says.
Burke, through his mother, Roseanne “Robin” Burke, declined to talk to The Inquirer.
But she said she watched the video of her son on Facebook and said she was “shocked and heartbroken.”
“I was in tears when I saw it,” she told a reporter. “We as a family are very embarrassed and very upset by what he said. He wasn’t raised that way.”
A cop helps his brother
About 11 a.m. June 3, officers converged on Goodwin’s home in Port Richmond. Neighbors and residents said they thought he was being arrested for his actions in Fishtown.
Instead, the officers were there to help him.
Goodwin told a reporter that he had called a “crisis hotline” that morning, saying he wanted to kill himself because he was being wrongly vilified as a “white supremacist” on social media. And a team of officers showed up, mistakenly thinking he had barricaded himself inside, Goodwin said.
Goodwin said his brother, Joseph Jr., a cop since 1996 and assigned to the 26th District, came to help. His brother hugged him and said, “We’ll get through this,” according to Richie Goodwin.
Joseph Goodwin then drove his brother to the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. Richie Goodwin served in the Navy from 1995 to 1998, military records show. Officer Goodwin, through a police spokesperson, declined to be interviewed by The Inquirer.
“I was so mad [at myself] because I don’t like to get violent. I hate myself when I get like that, and I was thinking of taking my own life,” he said. “I was in the VA Hospital for four days, crying, and the nurses were hugging me because I’m not a racist. I’m not.”
Goodwin said his “PTSD was off the chains” after he spent an unnerving two days hunkered down in his home amid looting, rioting, fires, and explosions. Goodwin said he had suffered a severe brain injury after being attacked as he attempted to board an oil rig in the Persian Gulf. He was part of a special boat patrol unit and earned a ribbon and a medal, Navy records show.
After he returned home, he said, he struggled to control his temper and actions.
“There’s something wrong with me,” he said. “I don’t want to hurt people.”
He was on the streets Monday, he said, because a friend asked him to come help protect his aunt’s house. The friend’s aunt lives near the 26th District station.
In the days after her heart-pounding encounter with Richie Goodwin and Markley, the female protester said she talked to residents who know Goodwin. They painted a complicated and sad picture, she said.
“I hope Richie gets the help that he so clearly needs,” she said. “And I hope that Capt. Fisher is reprimanded for clearly not handling that night properly.”
‘Flip of a switch’
A neighborhood petition to oust Fisher has amassed roughly 36,000 signatures to date.
Fisher has spent the last three weeks explaining himself to residents who’ve called and emailed.
“I want to start by saying thank you for the incredibly difficult work that you do every day,” Fishtown resident Taylor Uyehara began his June 2 email to the 26th District.
Then he expressed dismay that officers allowed “an armed mob of angry white men” to threaten people of color, intimidate residents with homophobic slurs, and rip up a peaceful protester’s sign while holding baseball bats. As an Asian American and an assistant principal in the Philadelphia School District, Uyehara said, he feared for his safety, but was “most scared” for the city’s Black and brown students.
Fisher wrote back to Uyehara: “The people that gathered are lifelong residents who were fearful of people coming into their neighborhood and destroying everything in sight. We are seeing residents throughout the city band together to protect their neighborhoods because they know that the police cannot do it alone.”
In the June 1 aftermath, those who’ve long harbored hatred toward their Black neighbors appeared emboldened, residents said. Or worse, endorsed by police, some said.
The next day, a 36-year-old Black resident, an artist who is married with a toddler, said she heard a man in front of her house bellow, “I’m looking for n—s and I’m looking to chase a n— down.”
She said she doesn’t want her name printed because she now feels “unsafe.”
“It’s like the flip of a switch. It feels like neighbors are showing their true colors. It’s very unsettling,” she said.
She added, “It makes me feel that the police are on their side and even if I needed help, I might not get it.”
On June 8, a small group of white men showed up at Franny Lou’s Porch, a Black-owned cafe that promotes its space as a “catalyst for the Black community, as well as other marginalized peoples.” The men chanted “white lives matter” as two staffers opened up the cafe for the day, said owner Blew Kind.
“It’s systemically a violent thing to say and an ignorant thing to say,” Kind said. “How does me saying ‘Black lives matter’ say that ‘white lives don’t matter'? There’s instant defensiveness because people don’t want to value Black lives. That’s the core of it.”
Kind said the two staffers, who are white, didn’t call police. They shouted at the chanting white men to leave. Most of Kind’s staff is Black and brown, she said. If they had been there instead, she worried that it would have had a different ending.
That said, she is glad that the “institutionalized racism” that Black community members routinely experience has boiled over into plain view.
Jaime Alvarez, a professional photographer who has lived in Fishtown for 12 years, said that June 1 was “an awakening.”
“All my life, I’ve been like, `I really appreciate all the work that [police] do,' and I would have had their back,” said Alvarez, who is Puerto Rican and described himself as so “light-skinned” that “a lot of people think I’m white.”
“But after June 1,” Alvarez said, “it really made me question a lot of things.”