Two Philadelphia officers accused of beating and breaking the jaw of a graffiti suspect have come under scrutiny for an earlier case in which a teenager out after curfew alleged that one of the officers beat him so badly that an eye swelled shut.
Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey ordered Internal Affairs investigators to take a second look at the June 2007 arrest of the North Philadelphia teenager, who said he was chased by 25th District Officers Sheldon B. Fitzgerald, 29, and Howard F. Hill 3d, 30, and was beaten.
This week, the two officers, both five-year veterans, were criminally charged with assault and related offenses for an unrelated case in August 2007 in which they caught a 36-year-old man painting graffiti and allegedly beat him severely when he tried to flee. Ramsey has suspended the officers without pay with intent to fire.
That case prompted the commissioner to review their personnel records, which showed the June 2007 complaint filed by the teen's mother, who said her son was struck repeatedly.
Ramsey's order to reopen the case comes after the televised police assault May 5 of three suspects, which led to the firings of four officers and disciplinary actions against four others in a move that rocked the department. Ramsey has said that use of excessive force will not be tolerated.
"We want to make sure that we did not miss anything and make sure that there is not a pattern of behavior," Chief Inspector Anthony DiLacqua, recently appointed to oversee internal investigations, said of the new investigation ordered.
Gene Blagmond of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents police officers, said he was concerned that Ramsey would reopen investigations and noted that when police first investigated the June 2007 case, "at no time did anyone cooperate." DiLacqua agreed that was a problem.
According to DiLacqua and a police report, about 1:30 a.m. June 12 the officers attempted to stop Joshua Pagan, then 15, for violating the city's 10:30 p.m. juvenile curfew.
DiLacqua said the teen ran and one officer chased him. Pagan "doubled back" and ran into the second officer. That's when Pagan alleges he was struck repeatedly, DiLacqua said.
It was not clear which officer initially chased the teen and which officer is accused of beating him. DiLacqua said he could not give those details in an active investigation.
The teen was treated at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children. He was then charged with drug possession after officers found several bags of marijuana in his pocket, said Madeline Pagan, the boy's mother.
Those charges were withdrawn when the officers failed to appear in court, she said.
It was not the first time her son had problems with the law. He was charged with assault and is in detention for truancy, she said.
When he gets home this month, DiLacqua said, investigators plan to ask again about the June 2007 arrest involving Hill and Fitzgerald.
Previously, Pagan and his older cousin, who was with the teen that night when they went to a nearby Chinese takeout, would not cooperate with investigators, DiLacqua said.
Madeline Pagan said her son called her from the Youth Study Center, telling her that "the police had beat him up really bad" and that he had an eye swollen shut.
She filed misconduct complaints against the officers, but said she would not let authorities talk to her son alone.
"They wanted to interview him without me, and I said no because he's a minor," Pagan said.
She did not know the case had been closed in October and thought police still planned to interview her son this month.
"These officers abused my son," said Pagan, sitting on her sofa in front of a picture of her three sons. "Who knows how many people they've done this to?"