The sucker punch felt round the city

    My friend, an out of state veteran cop, is never at a loss for words. He’s not prone to profanity, either. But after watching the viral video of a Philadelphia police officer hauling off and punching a woman after the Philadelphia Puerto Rican Day Parade, his text was short and blunt: “WTF was that?”

    Exactly. What was that?

    Local reporters got the scoop. At a street party that followed the parade Sunday, cops had surrounded a car doing donuts. Then, witnesses told reporters, a few people threw water or silly string at them. Behind the cops was a crowd of people, including at one point, 39-year-old mother of three, Aida Guzman.

    Some have speculated that Guzman also threw something. She told reporters she didn’t. Cops arrested her and cited her with disorderly conduct.

    In the video you can see her jumping up and down and then walking away. And then in a bizarre, disturbing, and yes, WTF moment, Highway Patrol Lt. Jonathan D. Josey II goes after her and punches her so hard that she hits the ground.

    Let’s do the math here: That’s a 200-plus pound man pounding on a woman half his size who is walking away. From where I sit, that adds up to assault.

    Guzman’s got the swollen, cut lip. But make no mistake – that sucker punch is being felt throughout the community.

    And no, I’m not just talking about the large community of Latinos who call this city home, most of them Puerto Ricans. Or the people having a good time that had to watch such an ugly incident — not to mention the organization who hosted the parade only to have it overshadowed by 36 seconds of video.

    I’m talking about a community of residents who already view police suspiciously, generations of citizens whose own histories with police are dotted with incidents like this one.

    And a community of cops, good cops, who work hard to remedy that past and who don’t deserve the black eye that came with Guzman’s swollen lip.

    And what of the cops who witnessed the incident? It’s hard to look at anything other than those punches, but look at the video again and watch the faces of some of those other cops watching Josey hit Guzman: a mix of shock, confusion and dread.

    When Guzman is knocked to the ground, it looks like she asks, “Why?” as she’s being handcuffed.

    It’s the question we all have now. Why would a 19-year, decorated cop behave in such a shocking, inappropriate way? Besides being a cop, a sometime actor and onetime Daily New Sexy Single, Josey also runs an anti-violence program.

    Has past behavior -13 citizen complaints that alleged verbal or physical abuse; they were deemed unfounded or unsubstantiated — emboldened him to behave this way? Why did he think he’d get away with such public brutality?

    In another Daily News story, there may be a hint of a wafer thin excuse. In July, 2010 Josey was stabbed when he intervened in a fight between two women and an off-duty female officer outside a West Philadelphia bar.

    In a letter he wrote to the court for the woman’s sentencing, he spoke of “emotional and psychological scars” that he battled after the incident.

    As I watched the video over and over again, I wondered if something about what happened at the parade sparked those memories and fears, and prompted that reaction.

    But, really, it doesn’t matter. Whatever reason he comes up with doesn’t excuse an officer of the law crossing such an outrageous line.

    The Daily News story quoted an editorial that Josey wrote that in part read: “When an officer shoots someone, witnesses come out of the woodwork, but when reckless hoodlums lay siege to these same streets, nobody sees a thing.”

    Sunday, it was a cop who chose to act like some reckless thug, and this time a rolling cell phone camera made sure we all saw the whole appalling thing.

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

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.