Video footage and recently filed court documents reveal further details about a violent assault during a Black Lives Matter protest in May that led to the arrest of a former SEPTA police sergeant.
Matthew Sinkiewicz, 36, of Bucks County, faces multiple counts of aggravated assault and other protest-related charges in connection with violence exerted against two protesters near the statue of former Mayor and Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo outside the Municipal Services Building on May 30, District Attorney Larry Krasner announced last week. Court documents identified the victims as Hannah Bachism and Joseph Rupprecht.
SEPTA said it was unable to provide body camera footage or other video of the incident. But a 19-second clip taken by an eyewitness and recently shared with The Inquirer shows Sinkiewicz wielding a riot shield and swinging his baton at protesters gathered for a demonstration against police brutality and racial injustice after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Photographer Justin Curtis, 38, who provided the footage, said he was at the demonstration “to document physical force by the cops against protesters.” With his camera focused on the Rizzo statue, Curtis pivoted to his left where he saw Philadelphia police picking up a barricade and heading into the group of protesters.
In a group of PPD officers dressed in blue, Sinkiewicz, dressed in a black uniform, was “using way more force than the other cops,” Curtis said.
SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III confirmed Sinkiewicz is in the video.
Sinkiewicz is accused of striking Bachism and Rupprecht in the head and body using his baton, according to the court affidavit.
Curtis said he saw Sinkiewicz repeatedly using excessive force. “It was ingrained in my brain what happened that day, and I still can’t forget it," Curtis said.
Bachism and Rupprecht sustained injuries that left them hospitalized. The criminal complaints say Sinkiewicz “recklessly placed” Bachism and Rupprecht “in danger of death or serious bodily injury and impeded [their] exercise of multiple rights.” SEPTA fired Sinkiewicz in July after an internal affairs investigation.
Over the summer, Rupprecht told The Inquirer that he was bashed in the head with a baton while near the Rizzo statue that day.
“I thought I was OK for a second, and then I start seeing blood drip down my face and I’m hearing ringing in my ears," he said at the time.
Sinkiewicz also faces two charges of falsifying statements to authorities, according to the DA’s Office.
He “completed and submitted departmental paperwork,” but “the completed documents did not accurately reflect what transpired with Ms. Bachism and Mr. Rupprecht," according to the affidavit. A criminal complaint alleges that Sinkiewicz falsified “the report of force used."
SEPTA declined to share the report, citing the ongoing prosecution. A spokesperson for the DA’s Office said it is barred from sharing evidence related to an active investigation.
Nestel declined to comment on the video, citing "an open case” that he doesn’t “want to interfere with.”
“What I can say is that if anybody else feels that they were struck by Sgt. Sinkiewicz that day, we would love to hear from them," Nestel said.
SEPTA Transit Police can be reached at 215-580-4487.
Sinkiewicz’s next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 12.