Two former Philadelphia police officers accused of mercilessly pummeling an unarmed man have been acquitted of all charges Monday after a jury found they acted legally.
Former officers Kevin Robinson and Sean McKnight were found not guilty of aggravated assault charges by a jury on Monday.
The two were charged with beatingNajeeRiveraand falsifying police paperwork after a confrontation on May 2013 on the 2700 block of North 6th Street. Rivera allegedy sped away when the two officers tried to pull him over in an unmarked police vehicle.
Rivera, 23, was shot to death in December 2015 in an unrelated dispute, months before the trial began. His former girlfriend, Dina Scannapieco, was in the courtroom to hear the verdict.
“I’m disappointed … They’re supposed to protect our community, but now they can just give out a—-whuppings? I mean it was ridiculous. There was video, medical records,” Scannapieco said. “All police officers are going to feel like it’s OK to use excessive force because this just shows them they’re going to get away with it.”
Robinson and McKnight were charged in February 2015 after Scannapieco dug up a surveillance tape of the incident from the 25th Police District that contradicted the paperwork they filed claiming Rivera attacked the officers and threw one against the wall. After the video was revealed, assault charges against Rivera were later dropped.
The video shows the officers’ car edge Rivera’s scooter off the road before the two men get out and begin pummeling him.
Defense lawyers argued that Rivera fled after the officers identified themselves and that they stopped struggling with him after he stopped resisting.
“The jury was predominantly white,” Scannapieco said. “I just feel that it was a very racial thing. Had it been a white person that got beat up, I think they most definitely would have got convicted.”
Scannapieco said that while she was surprised by the verdict, Rivera would not have been.
“He kind of knew that this was going to happen,” she said. “All he wanted was to get his job because they ruined his life. He knew that the cops were superior and you can’t go up against them.”
Rivera claimed he lost his job at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia after he showed up for work sporting bruises and injuries sustained during his arrest.
An online petition to get his job back garnered nearly 100,000 signatures but was unsuccessful.
Rivera settled a civil lawsuit with the city for $200,000, which he said mostly went toward legal and medical bills. He was later arrested in May 2015 for heroin possession and violating a restraining order.
He was fatally shot at Somerset and C streets while defending a female friend in an argument – also in the 25th district, Scannapieco said.
“This is the same district that is supposedly going to find the guy that killed him. I don’t think they want to find him,” she said.
Robinson and McKnight were dismissed from the police force after being indicted, but are expected to seek to regain their jobs through the arbitration process now that they have been acquitted.
“Yes, we will be bringing them back,” said Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 president John McNesby said via email.