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Two ex-SEPTA cops charged with beating man at Frankford station

The alleged victim suffered a broken nose in the Dec. 12 incident. The officers turned themselves Thursday morning and were charged with assault and other counts.

Wooden gavel isolated on white background. Law, justice and auction concept.
Wooden gavel isolated on white background. Law, justice and auction concept.Read moreGetty Images / iStock

Authorities on Thursday charged two former SEPTA Transit Police officers who they said beat a drunken man on the platform of the Frankford El station last December, breaking his nose and leaving him with a concussion and lacerations.

The officers had charged the man with resisting arrest, reckless endangerment, and aggravated assault for allegedly punching one of the officers in the face. Those charges were dropped hours after prosecutors reviewed video of the incident.

Former Officers Johnathan Lanciano and David Simcox, both 29, were fired by SEPTA Feb. 19 and turned themselves in to Philadelphia Police on Thursday morning. They face charges of reckless endangerment, simple assault, and filing false reports. Simcox also was charged with aggravated assault, while Lanciano also was charged with harassment.

Neither Simcox nor Lanciano could be immediately reached for comment Thursday.

Their union, the Fraternal Order of Transit Police Lodge 109, has already begun the grievance process to get their jobs back, said Omari Bervine, the union's president.

"We fully support these officers and feel the truth will come out and show that they are completely innocent of what they have been charged, and their names will be cleared," he said.

The beating of the 28-year-old man might have gone unquestioned if not for the body cameras the suspects and three fellow officers were wearing, and the SEPTA cameras on the platform.

The cameras showed that the man never struck any officers, while the two officers used excessive force "in direct contravention to all provided training and departmental standards," according to affidavits of probable cause filed in criminal court.

Charges have not been filed against three other officers who were involved in the incident, although the investigation is ongoing, said Benjamin Waxman, a spokesman for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

Two of those officers, Christian Gregory and Kevin Costello, told investigators that Lanciano had been punched and that they used control holds on the victim in return, according to the charging document.  Officer Mark Byrne told investigators that a "struggle occurred and that [the victim] was brought to the ground."

After officers took the victim to the platform floor, Lanciano punched him in the back two to three times. He also allegedly punched the victim in the face.

"At no time does [the victim] make any movements that could have been construed as reaching for a weapon nor are any weapons recovered," the charging document states.

Though the officers charged the man with aggravated assault and other counts, the District Attorney's Office dropped the charges later that day after reviewing the video evidence and declaring the officers' claims to be unfounded. Waxman said the department could not release the video because it is evidence, but it could be made public at trial.

"For us, this is about even-handed justice, everyone being held accountable for their actions," he said. "After reviewing the facts of the case, we felt these charges were appropriate."