Lawyer for Philly man beaten by police accuses officer of trying to discredit client

Tyree Carroll holds his daughter (Carroll family photo)

Tyree Carroll holds his daughter (Carroll family photo)

A Philadelphia police officer who was among the cops filmed beating an unarmed man has been accused of filing trumped-up possession charges to discredit 23-year-old Tyree Carroll ahead of his scheduled October trial.

The case gained national attention after a neighbor released the video of Carroll’s violent arrest on charges of possession, resisting arrest and assault.

In November, four months after video of officers repeatedly punching and kicking Carroll was released, Officer Jeffrey Middleton claims he saw Carroll sell two bags of crack cocaine to another man in an alleyway near Locust Avenue in Germantown, the same street where he was beaten by police months before.

Middleton, who is on the 14th District’s narcotics squad, has been named as one of the officers involved in the forceful apprehension of Carroll in April 2015 that has been viewed on YouTube nearly 200,000 times.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

According to Middleton’s testimony during a preliminary hearing, Thomas Chisom, 60, bought crack cocaine from Carroll the night of Nov. 14. Middleton, who was observing from an unmarked car about a block away, said he saw Carroll walk into the alleyway where he and Chisom exchanged “unknown objects.”

Middleton arrested Chisom, then radioed in a description of Carroll, who was later arrested as he was walking out of a Crown Fried Chicken on Chelten Avenue. Police found no drugs or money on Carroll, nor did they find any drugs in the alleyway where the transaction allegedly occurred.

“Empty plastic sandwich bags” were recovered from the alleyway, Middleton said.

Middleton admitted on the stand during the December preliminary hearing that he knew Carroll.

“I do know who he is, yes, sir,” Middleton said after Carroll’s attorney, Berto Elmore, asked.

“You know my client because you beat my client up,” Elmore said to the officer. Middleton did not respond because the judge sustained an objection from the officer’s attorney.

Questioning testimony

But after a hearing this week on Carroll’s arrest on the drug charges, Elmore pointed out what he said are holes in the officer’s narrative.

Why couldn’t police find any other stash of drugs connected to Carroll, in the alleyway or elsewhere? Middleton said he saw Carroll give Chisom “unknown objects,” but why is he sure it was a drug transaction? Why is Middleton certain Chisom didn’t receive the drugs from someone else?

The answer, Elmore said, is that Middleton is making the whole thing up.

“It’s obviously retaliation. They wanted to make Tyree look bad, and another arrest for drugs will do that,” Elmore said.

Nancy Carroll, Tyree’s grandmother, who has been active with the group Justice for Tyree Campaign, echoed Elmore’s assertions.

“The cops have it in for Tyree,” she said.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and the city’s police department have declined to comment on the latest development in Carroll’s case.

Thomas Chisom pleaded guilty to possession in December and was sentenced to a year of probation.

Meanwhile, a May 23 hearing has been set on Elmore’s motion to quash the drug charges, and Carroll has been released on bail.

City, federal scrutiny

In July, when the cellphone video of the violent police response was released, the department announced it was launching an Internal Affairs investigation into the April 2015 incident. No officers were found to have committed any wrongdoing, according to a source who read a report on the completed probe.

Carroll’s case is the latest to attract scrutiny following a U.S. Department of Justice report last March that found deep strife between police and many Philadelphia communities. In particular, federal officials found that use-of-force policies were inconsistent and needed a host of sweeping changes. Many community members, the federal report found, believed in a “code of silence” among officers when it came to patterns of police abuse.

The report concluded that reducing excessive force and launching new training and transparency initiatives was required in order to restore the public’s trust of the police.

In response, the police department has said that nearly all of the Justice Department’s 91 recommendations are in motion, including having the state police investigate all instances of officers who fire their weapons.

October trial on charges filed after violent arrest

Carroll’s supporters say he was riding the wrong-way down a one-way street in April 2015 when he was questioned by police, who say they found 5.3 grams of crack cocaine on him.

Carroll was on probation at the time stemming from a marijuana possession conviction. Police say he was originally stopped due to a suspected narcotics violation. During the incident, according to authorities, Carroll bit some officers while resisting arrest before more than a dozen officers descended on him, swinging and kicking.

According to police, Carroll was treated for an injury after intentionally slamming his head against a protective shield in a patrol car.

In the aftermath of the case, a team of civil rights attorneys, family members and other supporters has held rallies, marches and press conferences to press for justice.

Now, Carroll’s supporters are gearing up for an October trial on possession, resisting arrest and assault charges.

Carroll’s advocates maintain that the new drug charges are part of a strategy to ensure that prosecutors win this fall.

“I think the evidence will show that he didn’t have any drugs,” Elmore said. “And that this whole case is something the police made up to damage his character.”

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal