Former PPD inspector hit with civil rights lawsuit following 2020 protest beating

Former Philadelphia Police Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna (center) is seen striking a protester with a baton during a protest.

Former Philadelphia Police Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna (center) is seen striking a protester with a baton during a protest. (Peopledelphia/Twitter)

A former Philadelphia police inspector who was filmed striking protestors in June 2020 is facing a new civil rights lawsuit.

In the complaint, Evan Gorski, 23, alleges Joseph Bologna hit him over the head with a metal rod, causing a gash that required 10 staples. Bystander video of the altercation circulated on social media almost immediately after it happened.

“Despite knowing that he had committed an unprovoked violent attack against a defenseless Mr. Gorski,” the complaint alleges, Bologna and two other police officers “fabricated criminal charges” to cover up the incident.

Gorski, who was an engineering student at Temple University at the time, also names the City of Philadelphia in the lawsuit, alleging his injuries were a direct consequence of failed city policy during the civil rights protests of summer 2020.

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“The City made a deliberate choice to abandon previously developed operational plans to ensure the safety of people engaged in political protest, and … specifically encouraged its officers and supervisors—including Bologna—to pursue aggressive tactics and use unjustified physical force,” reads the complaint.

A report by the City Controller’s office found that “lack of leadership at the highest levels” contributed to a chaotic response to civil unrest during that time period, and that the Philadelphia Police Department failed to plan for the protests, “which led the City to overcompensate for the lack of planning with excessive force.”

Following his arrest, Gorski was taken to Jefferson University Hospital for treatment, and then held in the House of Corrections in “abhorrent conditions” for approximately 24 hours on charges which were later dropped, per court documents. The House of Corrections had been closed in 2018 but was used in 2020 to temporarily hold protesters police had arrested.

The case is the latest in the protracted fallout from the Philadelphia Police Department’s response to widespread protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw apologized for the decision to use tear gas on protesters who had blocked I-676 on the same day, following a New York Times video investigation.

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As of May 2021, there were nearly 300 lawsuits pending against Philadelphia authorities over their treatment of protesters and neighborhoods during unrest the previous year, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. At least one has resulted in a multimillion dollar settlement.

Bologna was charged with aggravated assault and terminated from the force following the incident. A judge later dismissed his criminal charges, but some were reinstated in 2021. Gorski’s suit argues that Bologna’s previous citizen complaint record was a red flag that should have been heeded.

Gorski is suing for compensatory and punitive damages.

An attorney for Bologna has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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