What to Know
- Charges have been dropped against a former Philadelphia SWAT officer who was accused of pepper spraying protesters on a highway during a mass protest last summer.
- On Monday a municipal court dismissed the misdemeanor charges of simple assault, reckless endangerment and official oppression against Richard Paul Nicoletti, 36.
- In a statement, Philadelphia to District Attorney Larry Krasner said he would still pursue charges against Nicoletti.
Charges have been dropped against a former Philadelphia SWAT officer who was accused of pepper spraying protesters on a highway during a mass protest last summer.
Nicoletti was accused of spraying multiple protesters on June 1, 2020, after they walked onto Interstate 676 in Center City during widespread demonstrations following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died handcuffed after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in May of last year. Chauvin was convicted last month of Floyd’s murder.
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Nicoletti turned himself in and was suspended 30 days on June 26, 2020, and later fired.
The use of force against protesters in Philadelphia sparked national attention and later prompted an apology from both Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and Mayor Jim Kenney.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said video evidence, as well as eyewitness testimony, showed Nicoletti spraying protesters and causing “physical harm, panic, and confusion.”
Nicoletti sprayed two kneeling protesters – pulling one's goggles down before spraying her again – before “violently” throwing a sitting protester onto his back and spraying him as well, Krasner said.
“That police officer walked towards us, and that’s actually all I remember. I blacked out," said Katherine Miller, who was sprayed and is now a plaintiff in one of multiple lawsuits against the city.
Kevin Mincey, an attorney representing Miller and other plaintiffs, said Nicoletti was out to "exact revenge" and that his clients are now “dealing with the emotional distress that comes with experiencing something like this.”
John McNesby, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 union, which represents law enforcement officers in the city, reacted angrily to the charges and took aim at Krasner, with whom he has frequently sparred.
“Krasner refuses to hold unlawful protesters accountable, those who set fire and looted our great city…His top priority is to push his anti-police agenda,” McNesby said in a statement. “This double-standard of justice is unacceptable to our brave police officers who work tirelessly to keep our city safe.”
On Monday, Krasner reacted to the charges being dropped.
“I fully intend to vigorously pursue charges in this matter,” Krasner wrote. “The people want and deserve justice and change, including police accountability, even though some institutional players are in denial. We will stay the course.”
NBC10 investigative reporter Mitch Blacher contributed to this story.