Philadelphia

3 Philadelphia Officers Under Investigation in 2001 Arrest

“They lied under oath to cover up for shooting an innocent man three times in the back,” Innocence Project lawyer Vanessa Potkin said

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Three Philadelphia police officers have been reassigned pending an internal investigation into the arrest and shooting of Termaine Hicks, who was cleared of a 2001 rape last week after spending 19 years in prison.

This decision comes after an investigation by the Innocence Project and the District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit who raised concerns about whether the officers fabricated evidence, planted a gun, and arrested Hicks under false pretenses, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“They lied under oath to cover up for shooting an innocent man three times in the back,” Innocence Project lawyer Vanessa Potkin said. She said Hicks had gone to the victim to render aid.

A police spokesperson said that the district attorney did not provide details on the allegations until after Hicks’ case was resolved.

“As a result of receiving this information, we have opened an Internal Affairs investigation into the allegations of police misconduct,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Officer Martin Vinson and Sgt. Dennis Zungolo have been placed on restricted duty and the identity of the third officer has not been released.

Vinson has not responded to requests for comment and Zungolo referred questions to John McGrody, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5. McGrody did not return calls Tuesday.

Vinson testified that he fired because Hicks reached for a gun and lunged at him and his then-partner Zungolo testified he saw Hicks pulling up his pants when police arrived.

A spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office declined to comment if it would pursue action against the officers. Pennsylvania's statute of limitations for perjury and other relevant criminal charges bars prosecution after five years.

Hicks' lawyers alleged that the cover-up went beyond the three officers.

“When you look more broadly at the other officers involved in this case, there is a larger pattern of official misconduct,” Potkin said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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