The Philadelphia Police Department's Internal Affairs Unit is investigating an arrest early Monday in which officers apparently struck a handcuffed man's head against a Kensington street and the side of an above ground pool while a chaotic crowd yelled for them to stop.
A video of the incident, posted to Facebook by neighborhood resident Ariel Rivera, had more than 223,000 views by Tuesday afternoon. On her post, Rivera wrote: "3 Philadelphia police officers beat the bs out of this guy over one bag of dope smh share to stop this police brutality." Rivera's post had been shared more than 4,000 times.
"The reason I recorded it and posted it and pushed for people to share it is because this isn't something that happens once in a blue moon in our neighborhood, this is very common. A lot of people go through stuff like this," Rivera, 24, said in an interview Tuesday. "Our community is bad enough already, to be honest, we should not have to fear calling the police."
A police spokesman said that Internal Affairs was aware of the video and was investigating the incident, which took place at Elkhart and Ella Streets shortly after midnight.
Police said the unidentified man was arrested for a narcotics violation, but they declined to provide details, citing the ongoing investigation. The 21-year-old man remains hospitalized, according to police, but his condition was not available.
Rivera said she was at home, a half a block from the scene, when she heard the commotion and went outside. She said the suspect is a homeless man who sleeps on a mattress in nearby Hope Park.
"They must have raided and arrested people in the park…and he began to run from them," she said. "I saw police were kicking this guy in his head and hitting him with their batons before I started recording."
The roughly three-minute video begins with the shirtless man already on the ground and three police officers over him. About 20 seconds in, one of the officers grabs him by his wrists, which are handcuffed in front of him, and appears to pick him up and strike him against the ground twice. In response, a man in the large crowd of about two dozen onlookers rattles a street sign. A woman screams, "There's no need for abuse!" Another yells, "There's kids around!"
One officer then tries to put the man inside a police SUV, but the man appears to throw himself onto the ground, then gets on his hands and knees and puts his head under the side of the police cruiser. A second officer comes from behind the man and appears to place a baton under his stomach to lift him. As the man is in the air, his head hits the side of a pool erected in the middle of the street. The frame of the pool is damaged by the impact.
The man eventually is placed in the police cruiser and a police supervisor arrives.
Facebook comments on the video are mixed. One woman wrote: "I don't care if he was selling drugs or not. That's an unarmed man. Police now are abusing their power." Another commenter wrote: "I see him constantly resisting and trying to get away! Why do you think the cops are in the wrong? Play with the bull get the horns!"
Rivera said she's been surprised at how divisive some of the reactions have been.
"This wasn't something I posted to divide people, this is something I posted to spread awareness," she said. "The police officers that do their job well deserve to have respect and those that don't need to be held accountable."