A Philadelphia police officer surrendered Monday to face aggravated assault and other charges stemming from video that shows him striking a student protester in the head with a metal baton.
Police Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna has been suspended for 30 days with the intent to dismiss him from the department.
Bologna’s attorney said the officer’s actions were justified because the protests had turned violent, and he has drawn the support of many of his colleagues.
Bologna, who is also charged with reckless endangerment and possession of an instrument of crime, was applauded by scores of supporters including officers in and out of uniform who had gathered outside of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police in a show of support.
Video circulating widely on Twitter shows Bologna, during a June 1 protest, hitting a 21-year-old Temple University student in the head and neck area with a baton, before the student is knocked to the ground and another officer put his knee on him to keep him down.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Friday that the officer had been taken off street duty pending an internal affairs investigation. Hours later, District Attorney Larry Krasner announced that his office would be charging Bologna with a crime. John McNesby, president of the FOP 5 Lodge, said the union was “disgusted” by that action.
Over the weekend, other officers organized efforts to help cover Bologna’s legal defense, including a GoFundMe page that had collected more than $22,000 as of Monday morning, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The police union also announced on Twitter that it would sell T-shirts saying “Bologna Strong.”
Bologna’s attorney, Fortunato Perri Jr., said the officer’s actions during the protest were justified.
“Last week he worked several consecutive 15-hour shifts to protect the peaceful protesters, residents and business owners from those who used the protests to engage in arson, looting, theft and mayhem,” Perri wrote in an emailed statement. “In the midst of this deadly pandemic, Inspector Bologna and his fellow officers were spit on, sprayed with urine and other chemicals as well as verbally and physically assaulted. His use of force to apprehend an individual, who was trying to thwart a lawful arrest during a melee, was lawful and justified.”
The attorney representing the engineering student, who according to the district attorney’s office needed about 10 staples and 10 stitches, declined to comment on the charges or arrest.
Lawyers, activist groups and others have strongly criticized multiple instances of police use of force during the protests, many recorded by reporters or posted on social media. A confrontation June 1 involving officers firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who had gotten on to Interstate 676 and were trying to retreat up a steep embankment drew national attention.