Philly Officer Accused of Striking Protester Cheered on Before Surrendering on Charges

Police Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna Jr. was shown support as he left the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 5, to face charges that he assaulted a college student with a baton during last week's protests

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What to Know

  • A Philadelphia police officer has surrendered on assault charges stemming from video showing him striking a student protester in the head with a metal baton in Center City.
  • Police Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna has been suspended for 30 days with the intent to dismiss from the police department. Bologna is also charged with reckless endangerment and possession of an instrument of crime. 
  • He was applauded Monday by dozens of officers, some in uniform, outside of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police in a show of support.

A Philadelphia police commander charged with aggravated assault for allegedly beating a Temple University student with a baton during a protest last week in Center City was greeted with salutes and cheers from supporters as he went to surrender on the charges Monday.

In a show of solidarity, a crowd of a few hundred supporters packed the lawn in front of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 in Northeast Philadelphia Monday morning as Police Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna, Jr. left to surrender at the 15th Police District.

Bologna is accused of using his police baton to assault a Temple University student as protesters scuffled with police in Center City on Tuesday. The incident was caught on video by protesters from more than one angle. Those videos were posted to social media and played a role in District Attorney Larry Krasner's decision to charge Bologna.

The student, identified by attorney Jonathan Feinberg as Evan Gorski, was detained for more than 24 hours before charges were dropped after the video of his violent arrest went viral. He suffered a head wound that required 10 staples and 10 sutures, the DA's office said. Gorski is wearing the Eagles jersey in the video posted and seen below:

It was police who brought the video of the interaction between Bologna and Gorski to prosecutors as evidence to charge the college student with assault of an officer. Prosecutors declined to charge Gorski and instead charged Bologna.

Bologna has served in the department for 30 years. He is currently a Staff Inspector and served as captain of the 19th District, which covers portions of West and Southwest Philadelphia. He is charged of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and possession of an instrument of crime. Bologna's attorney, Forunato Perri Jr., said he expected the veteran officer to be arraigned Monday afternoon.

Bologna has been suspended for 30 days with the intent to dismiss him from the department.

FOP President John McNesby accompanied Bologna and neither responded to shouted questions from reporters as the crowd clapped and cheered. In a statement Monday, McNesby wrote the union would "vigorously defend" Bologna against the "baseless allegations and charges."

"This latest rush to judgement by District Attorney Larry Krasner clearly illustrates his anti-law-enforcement agenda in Philadelphia," McNesby said in a written statement. "Our union and police officers will not stand-by and watch Inspector Bologna get railroaded by a politically, opportunistic DA, who has turned his back on Philadelphia police and the city."

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Friday that her agency was reviewing videos that showed police officers in violent confrontations with people protesting the death of George Floyd.

Lawyers, protesters, legal observers and a handful of activist organizations have strongly criticized multiple instances of police use of force during the protests, many recorded by reporters or posted on social media. A confrontation Monday involving officers firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who had gotten on to Interstate 676 and were trying to retreat up a steep embankment has drawn national attention.

Outlaw said she had seen several of the videos and while some of the use of force seemed to be within department policy, some were “disturbing.”

“I am deeply concerned about this, and as a result I have initiated several concurrent internal affairs investigations,” Outlaw said.

In one video, a group of protesters can be seen engaging with bicycle officers in a grassy area near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway on Monday night. It was unclear what caused the interaction to escalate, but Gorski is seen reaching out to separate another protester from the officer's grip before he is struck.

“It happened in broad daylight, with hundreds if not thousands of people around," Feinberg said. "This officer had to know what he was doing was observable... to everyone who was there, and he did it anyway.”

Perri said his client's actions during the protest were justified.

“Last week he worked several consecutive 15-hour shifts to protect the peaceful protesters, residents and business owners from those who used the protests to engage in arson, looting, theft and mayhem,” Perri wrote in an emailed statement last week. “In the midst of this deadly pandemic, Inspector Bologna and his fellow officers were spit on, sprayed with urine and other chemicals as well as verbally and physically assaulted. His use of force to apprehend an individual, who was trying to thwart a lawful arrest during a melee, was lawful and justified.”

Outlaw said she was not privy to all of the information that led to Krasner's decision to charge Bologna. An Internal Affairs investigation will continue into the commander's conduct, she said.

Philadelphia Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna Jr. has been charged with aggravated assault for allegedly beating a protester Tuesday. NBC10 reporter Aaron Baskerville found out that Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby disagrees with the charges.
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