The Philadelphia father who was grabbed from the neck by a SEPTA police officer and arrested for allegedly skipping out on a El fare as he clutched his toddler says he paid for the train ride.
Ellis Smith tells NBC10 in an exclusive interview, alongside his attorney, on Monday he paid the $2.25 to take SEPTA's Market-Frankford line toward Center City Philadelphia last Thursday.
But, the 20-year-old vocational student says the ticket booth agent at the Margaret-Orthodox Station objected to him carrying his 18-month-old daughter, Suehaiah, on his shoulders. Smith then slipped through the turnstile, onto the platform and boarded the train.
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A few stops later, a SEPTA Police officer confronted Smith about evading a fare and, after several minutes of arguing, tried to physically remove him from the train. Surveillance video showed the officer, a 16-year veteran who hasn't been identified, grabbing the dad by the neck and pushing him into the train's wall with the girl in his arms.
"Obviously that's not how they're trained," Smith's attorney, Patrick Link said. "It's not what should have happened. For some reason, it did."
The train was then stopped, Smith handcuffed and arrested on a platform. The arrest was also caught on video and posted to Facebook where it went viral. SEPTA Police launched an internal affairs investigation and police chief Thomas Nestel accepted blame for the incident.
Smith said his daughter was knocked around in the scuffle. She was taken to the hospital and didn't suffer any physical injuries, but the dad's concerned she may have emotional trauma.
SEPTA is reviewing fare evasion enforcement. Surveillance cameras didn't caputre the alledged act. Smith remains charged with fare evasion, reisting arrest and disorderly conduct.