Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has filed criminal charges against a former Philadelphia Police officer who was caught on camera striking a woman during a Puerto Rican Day street party.
Lt. Jonathan Josey was charged on Thursday morning with simple assault, a misdemeanor of the second degree, for the incident that happened at Fifth and Lehigh Streets. Josey was recorded on videotape as he struck 39-year-old Aida Guzman in the face. The incident happened during the investigation of a motor vehicle that was creating a hazardous condition on the street. Josey is expected to surrender to authorities today, accompanied by his attorney Fortunato Perri Jr.
“As district attorney it is my job to ensure that we only charge the right people with only the correct charges; nothing more, nothing less,” Williams said. “After an extensive investigation by both Police Internal Affairs and my Special Investigations Unit, I have determined the appropriate action in this case is to charge Mr. Josey with simple assault. As I have stated many times before it doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, lawyer, Monsignor of a church, police officer or bus driver, justice demands that we apply our laws fairly.”
On the day in question, a witness recorded Josey hitting Guzman from behind. Williams said the crowds at Fifth and Lehigh were celebrating Puerto Rican Day along Ben Franklin Parkway. It was followed by the unlicensed street party at Fifth and Lehigh Avenue. Williams said there were people in the crowds throwing liquids at police and shooting silly string. Guzman is seen in the recording moving away from some people that had been spraying beer at the officers and it was never determined if she had a hand in that. Josey overreacted by striking her, said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Charges of disorderly conduct were filed against her after the incident, but were subsequently dropped.
“I’ve been involved with this since it occurred, and took the appropriate action,” Ramsey said, who suspended Josey for thirty days with intent to dismiss. “I support the DA’s decision. Officers have the legal authority to use force. We have to react in hazardous situations, but not overreact.”
Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby said the FOP would support Josey despite the charges. Williams said that Josey’s actions were completely unnecessary.
“The officers were attempting to bring order to a hazardous situation. Internal Affairs did a very thorough and extensive investigation of this incident,” Williams said. “They really did their job, meeting with the many witnesses and various officers who were present. Ultimately, it was my decision to charge Josey. Police are authorized to use force when justified, and it was in that context that we evaluated what happened. The use of force in this case was not necessary.”