PHILADELPHIA – A former police lieutenant caught on video punching a woman in the face while responding to a disturbance at a Puerto Rican Day parade festival was charged Thursday with simple assault, prosecutors said.
Jonathan Josey, a veteran supervisor who has since been fired, was charged with the misdemeanor count after prosecutors carefully reviewed the video following an internal police investigation, District Attorney Seth Williams said.
Police were responding to a raucous situation when the incident occurred at the street party in north Philadelphia in September. A driver had been causing a disruption doing doughnuts with his vehicle and some people were throwing water, shouting epithets and shooting "silly string" at police trying to restore order, Williams said.
Video of the altercation shows 39-year-old Aida Guzman being struck in the face and falling to the ground, her face bloodied, and then being led away in handcuffs.
While the situation was "volatile," Williams said, Guzman did not pose a threat. "The use of force was not necessary in that circumstance," he said. "That behavior was not necessary and not justified."
Josey's attorney, Fortunato Perri Jr., said his client planned to surrender Friday, but that the 19-year veteran would be vindicated once all the evidence was reviewed.
"He was working in a very volatile environment that day," Perri said, adding that the video sensationalized what happened. "He'll be vindicated and hopefully he'll be able to get back to work."
Messages left Thursday with the Fraternal Order of Police weren't immediately returned.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he supported Williams' decision and said officers need to be very careful in how they use force.
"We have to always be mindful of the fact that we have a responsibility not to overreact," even in tough situations, Ramsey said.
Williams said he felt the misdemeanor charge was appropriate and that the use of force did not rise to the level of a felony, such as aggravated assault.
A disorderly conduct charge against Guzman was withdrawn. Mayor Michael Nutter has apologized to her, saying he was "appalled," ''sickened" and "ashamed" after seeing the video, which went viral on YouTube.