Prosecutors have dropped all charges against Tyree Carroll stemming from a filmed 2015 police beatdown that went viral and spawned public anger.
In cellphone footage recorded by a neighbor in East Germantown, a dozen officers were recorded as they restrained, kicked and punched Carroll following a drug possession arrest his attorney has long maintained was bogus.
For nearly two years, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has been fighting to advance the drug and assault charges to trial, but last month a judge ruled that police illegally stopped the 22-year-old unarmed black man before the violent episode.
That order made the drugs police say they found on him inadmissible at trial, leaving just the assault charges.
On Thursday, in a quick hearing in which neither prosecutors nor defense made any statements, the District Attorney’s Office decided not to appeal the judge’s order and also dropped the assault counts.
“I don’t know what you’d consider vindication, but Mr. Carroll is glad this is behind him,” said Carroll’s defense attorney Michael Wiseman after the hearing.
Back on April, 3 2015, Carroll was riding his bike around midnight the wrong way down Locust Avenue, not far from his grandmother’s house. Police claimed they saw Carroll engage in a drug transaction, but Carroll’s legal team countered that the young man was framed to justify the events that followed.
For Carroll, the tossed charges conclude a jarring skirmish that he has not been able to shake since it happened two years ago.
Carroll did not appear at Thursday’s hearing. When the judge last month declared the initial 2015 stop unconstitutional, Carroll said he was relieved, yet he fretted that police who know him in his neighborhood may attempt to retaliate for prevailing in court.
“The thought that a man can be riding his bicycle without breaking the law, be ordered to be stopped by police with absolutely no cause whatsoever, and when he did not comply with that illegal order, to be beaten to the ground and then arrested, held in jail for four months and facing three serious charges is an outrage,” Wiseman said.
“I hope the police department, and the district attorney’s office, and the public at large, will draw some lessons to know what it must be like for that to happen in your neighborhood,” he added.
Wiseman would not comment on whether Carroll is considering a civil lawsuit against the officers involved in his beating.
Last July, an Internal Affairs investigation into the violent police response was launched. No officers were found to have committed any wrongdoing.
“I think everybody wants justice, but the definition of justice is another matter,” Wiseman said.
Carroll’s case provides an illuminating window into systemic troubles that have plagued police in Philadelphia, including accusations of using excessive force and having no legal basis to stop and question residents.
The incident caught on cellphone video by a neighbor that later spread fast across the internet occurred shortly after a U.S. Department of Justice report found deep strife between police and many Philadelphia communities. Federal officials noted 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.
And the end of Caroll’s charges from the viral incident comes ahead of another report from a court-appointed monitor tasked with reviewing pedestrian “stop and frisk” interactions with Philadelphia police. That report is expected this spring. The most recent report revealed that more than one third of the thousands of stops conducted throughout the city were done without an officers having a good legal reason to do so. And black residents represented the overwhelming number of pedestrian stops and pat-downs officers were conducting.
The issues have prompted new training focused on de-escalaction tactics and major reforms to the way police stop and frisk, which, according to civil rights attorneys, is a legal tactic as long as there is no racial profiling and stops are conducting after officers establish that there is good reason to believe a crime has been, or is about to be, committed.