Philadelphia Police are investigating a cell phone video showing a skateboarder kicking a city park ranger in his head and then spitting on the man in Philadelphia's LOVE Park Friday. The 35-year-old park ranger approached three teen skateboarders and advised them they could not skate in the park.
"I ain't (explective) leaving," said one skateboarder before punching the park ranger in the face and wrestling him to the ground.
The violent altercation occurred around 5 p.m. in the iconic Center City park, located at 15th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, according to Mariano Verrico, of Essex Fells, N.J., who caught the fight on camera.
"He got kicked in the head repeatedly and spit on," Verrico said. "When he was down towards the end..., the one kid who did everything leaned down and spit on him. It was really disgraceful."
Verrico stopped at LOVE Park, where police began enforcing a skateboarding ban in 2002, with his friends and cousins, who he was visiting for the day in Philadelphia, he said.
Police provided descriptions of the three skateboarders that day. Offender number one is 19-years-old, 5 feet 10 inches with dred locks. He wore a gray t-shirt and dark pants with red lettering on the front. The second offender is described as 19 to 20-years-old with a black t-shirt and black pants. The third offender is 19-years-old, 5 feet nine inches, and he wore a black-tshirt with a white design on the front.
Sitting near the fountain, Verrico said he heard the park ranger warn several young men that they had to stop skateboarding in the park because there were too many young children in the area.
"Basically he was just doing his job," Verrico said. "His voice wasn't raised. He wasn't cursing."
One skateboarder punched the ranger -- who was standing next to a staircase -- and he fell backwards onto the ground, said Verrico, who added he was nervous to intervene since he was outsized.
The video shows the park ranger's hands raised in the air, but Verrico said the victim never threw a punch and only kept his arms up to defend himself.
"He never once tried to fight with the kid," he said. "He never threw any type of punch at the kid or said anything negative."
The assailant continues to attack the park ranger, kicking the man in the head as onlookers stood by. The ranger suffered injuries to his head, but is expected to be okay.
Verrico said he accompanied the park ranger, and the victim's supervisor, to a Philadelphia Police Station and turned his video over to investigators. On Saturday, NBC10 sent the video to Central Detectives who were unaware of the incident at the time. They are currently investigating and seeking the three skateboarders.
NBC10 also reached out to the city's Parks and Recreation Department for comment. We have not yet heard back from them.
The incident is one of many reported between skaterboarders and authorities in LOVE Park in recent years.
Two skateboarders attacked another city park ranger in May 2004 when the official attempted to cite the pair and confiscate their boards. Years later, the dynamic reportedly flipped as police officers allegedly chased skateboarders down, tackled them and deployed Tasers.
While the skateboarding ban at LOVE Park is still in place, authorities often tolerate the young men and woman speeding past tourists and grinding their boards along the planters.
Councilman Jim Kenney suggested Philadelphia City Council alter the regulations to include space for the skateboarders to legally pop ollies in the park earlier this year.
Members of Kenney's staff told Philly.com in June that they are working to include a legal skate spot in an already-established master plan to redesign LOVE Park. But the recent addition of the skateboard-friendly Paine's Park along the Schuylkill River Trail could lead city officials to curb suggestions from Kenney's office.