By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia judge today ordered two former Philadelphia police officers to stand trial on charges of beating a man after knocking him off his motor scooter with their patrol car.
The incident happened in May 2013, while the officers were pursuing the man, who was later cleared of all charges.
Officers Sean McKnight and Kevin Robinson had pulled over 21-year-old Najee Rivera about 10pm on May 29th, near Seventh and Cambria Streets, in the city’s Fairhill section.
Earlier this year a grand jury had indicted the two officers after Rivera’s girlfriend sought and found surveillance video of the incident that told a different story than what the officers had claimed.
At today’s preliminary hearing, Rivera testified that he didn’t know why they were stopping him when the officers came up behind his scooter and jumped out of their patrol car. He admits to panicking, and taking off, after seeing them pull out their batons as they exited their patrol car.
He acknowledges that he drove the wrong way on North Sixth Street.
Assistant DA Andrew Wellbrock showed in the courtroom a grainy, six-minute nighttime surveillance video of the end of the chase and Rivera’s capture.
“They claim Mr. Rivera fell off his scooter,” Wellbrock says of the arresting officers. “I think the video is quite clear, that’s not what happened.”
Defense lawyers argued that the officers were shouting, “Show us your hands!” and used their batons because they were fearful that Rivera had a weapon, and did not continue striking Rivera once they had him in handcuffs.
But Rivera had no weapon, and suffered numerous head injuries during his apprehension. He was initially charged with aggravated assault and related crimes but, once the surveillance video was reviewed by officials, prosecutors dropped the charges.
Rivera filed suit against the City of Philadelphia and settled for $200,000.
Now, the former officers will stand trial on charges that will include aggravated assault, conspiracy, and making false reports.