Philly D.A. charges city cop with assault

By Jon Campisi | Nov 29, 2014

While one former Philly cop was recently found not guilty of assault following an incident

While one former Philly cop was recently found not guilty of assault following an incident

at last year’s Puerto Rican Day event, another city police officer was just charged with similar actions during the prior year’s festivities.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams this week announced that 32-year-old Aquil Byrd, who is assigned to the elite Strike Force Unit, is being charged with simple assault and official oppression stemming from an incident that occurred at the 2011 Puerto Rican Day Festival.

According to the D.A.’s Office, Byrd was patrolling during the festival on Sept. 25, 2011, when he and other officers responded to the area of Front Street and Clearfield Avenue in the city’s Kensington section to clear a large crowd from the street and sidewalk.

At this point, Byrd and a festival-goer got into a verbal argument about the man moving off of the street as per police order, according to a news release from the prosecutor’s office.

Video surveillance then recorded the man, who is not identified, walking into a nearby Chinese takeout restaurant, where he was followed by Byrd.

The officer is seen on surveillance video yelling at the man, hitting him in the face and grabbing him by the throat, according to the D.A.’s Office.

The Philadelphia Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit referred the case to the District Attorney’s Special Investigations Unit after the assault victim came forward with a complaint.

“After a thorough review, it was determined that Officer Byrd did act in a criminal manner and the misdemeanor charges of Simple Assault and Official Oppression were approved,” states a news release from the D.A.’s Office.

Byrd is said to have turned himself in to the Internal Affairs division of the police department on April 24.

The arrest follows the high profile case of former Philadelphia Police Lt. Jonathan Josey, who was fired from the force and charged with assaulting a woman during last year’s Puerto Rican Day Festival.

Josey had been caught on cellphone video striking Delaware County resident Aida Guzman, 39, in the face.

The officer was soon discharged from the force and charged by the district attorney with simple assault.

Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Patrick Dugan, however, during a non-jury bench trial, found Josey not guilty, agreeing with the defendant’s contention that the face punch was actually Josey trying to swipe a beer bottle from the woman’s hand.

(Josey and other officers apparently had had liquid thrown at them prior to the incident).

Last month, the National Conference of Puerto Rican Woman called for a federal probe into Josey’s acquittal.

The Pennsylvania Record also previously reported on the Josey case after Guzman, the woman who was struck in the face, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania back in late January against the former police lieutenant and the City of Philadelphia.

The court docket in that civil case shows that a settlement conference has been scheduled for May 6 in the chambers of U.S. District Judge John Padova, who is overseeing the litigation.

The judge furthermore ordered all discovery to be completed by July 31.

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