Beatdown or standard policing? Jurors decide tomorrow on Najee Rivera case
Fourteen Philadelphians will decide the fate of two former officers accused of beating Najee Rivera near 7th and Cambria Streets in 2013.
Did Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) officers Kevin Robinson and Sean McKnight make a by-the-book arrest, ensuring that a suspect complied with police requests? Or was the episode a brutal beatdown that landed an employee of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the emergency room?
In the second day of the trail on Thursday, the defense team and Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wellbrock each presented their side of the story before Judge Charles Ehrlich and a jam-packed courtroom.
Lieutenant Marc Hayes, supervising officer for Robinson and McKnight’s at the time of the incident, signed off on a document known as the C-14, which documents the use of police force while making an arrest.
The document indicates that Rivera received injuries to his arms, head, wrist, shoulder and head using what’s called and ASP — a retractable metal baton issued to officers for non-lethal. At the time, Robinson wrote “he banged me against a brick wall.”
On that night in 2013, Robinson and McKnight pursued Rivera after he ran a stop sign on his scooter. After an initial stop was made, Rivera fled the scene and a pursuit began. According to the official report filed by the officers, it was Rivera who violently resisted to his arrest.
The prosecution presented a key piece of evidence during the morning session which disproves their theory: a surveillance video obtained by Rivera’s girlfriend, Dina Scannapieco, in which the former officers are shown running Rivera and his scooter off the road before they get out of the car and pin him against a brick wall.
For the afternoon session, character witnesses testified on behalf of Robinson and McKnight. The attendants at the trial, previously quiet and contemplative as the proceedings went on, appeared moved by McKnight’s mother: “He’s my son and he’s my rock,” she said, holding back tears.
In his own testimony, McKnight stated his desire to return to the police force, referring to the day he lost his badge as “the worst day of my life.” Robinson, speaking in a calmer demeanor, rehashed the events of the incident, adding that he is “a family man who just wants to clear his name.”
The 14 jurors — a predominantly white mix of men and women — will hear closing statements from both sides tomorrow. They will decide on a long list of counts, which include: Aggravated Assault, Simple Assault, Criminal Conspiracy, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, Tampering with Public Records or Information, False Reports to Law Enforcement Authorities, Obstructing Administration of Law, and Official Oppression.
This is a unique trial in that neither side will hear from the victim of the police beating: Rivera passed in January after being shot two weeks prior.
Rivera allegedly tried to break up a fight between a man and two women near C and Somerset Streets when he was shot. Last week, Philadelphia police placed 23-year-old Khalil Henderson on the city’s Most Wanted list as a key suspect in the murder.