Bike Messengers Allege Police Brutality

By Daniel Denvir
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 25 | Posted Feb. 23, 2011

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Philadelphia police officers violently attacked two partygoers at the M Room early Sunday morning, according to witness accounts. Dozens of people were gathered at the Fishtown bar for a fundraising party for injured bike messengers. 

The police reportedly made their first visit of the night around midnight when one partygoer beat another one with a stick or baton. The attacker fled and a number of partygoers went to give a statement at the police precinct. According to a police spokesperson, the assailant was arrested. About 20 minutes later, another scuffle broke out outside the bar, also known as the Manhattan Room, on Girard Avenue just a block from the El. 

Two men at the party were ultimately attacked and arrested, witnesses say. One was Gary Viteri, 24, (pictured above) of South Philly. The other, a friend of Viteri’s, was a thin young black man with dreadlocks. He declined to speak to Philadelphia Weekly and requested that his name not be used in print. Friends told PW that the second man, who will be referred to as John, was extremely shaken up by the event.

Amanda Hagy, 28, who was visiting from Brooklyn for the weekend, says that she was walking behind John into the bar when another man ran up and hit him from behind. She says that the attacker, who could not be identified by PW and was not associated with the party, had exchanged words with John around the corner. Hagy reached to push John back into the bar as he began to lunge back at the man.

The police were immediately on the scene, grabbing the man who assaulted John and then throwing John against a large number of bikes that were locked together. Another officer then took out his baton and began to beat John with it. Other witnesses, some of whom did not want to be identified by name, confirm aspects of her account.

“They pushed me all the way to the bottom of stairs,” said Hagy. “He basically threw [John] against a pile of bikes. I was mortified. The cops were just so riled up. Their attitude was terrible. The big black guy [officer] that threw [John] down, I was screaming ‘don’t hit him he didn’t do anything.’ Then another cop ran over with his nightstick and just clubbed him. And then I just started crying. He was pinned. I felt like I was in shock. I’m still shaking thinking about it.”

“He was on his knees with his hands behind his head when at least one officer withdrew a night stick and proceeded to repeatedly hit [John] in the back, forcing him to the ground,” Julian Root, 23, of Cedar Park told PW in an email. “Several other officers had guns (or maybe Tasers) drawn on [John]. Still face-down on the ground, [John] was cuffed while another officer kept his boot pressed against [John’s] back.”

“I’ve never seen a cop do something I thought was wrong before,” says Hagy. “My family was military when I was a kid. I don’t disrespect law enforcement ever. But what the cops did was wrong.”

Viteri was sitting at the bar when he heard that his friend, John, was being beaten by police outside. He says that he came to the entrance and yelled at the cops to leave his friend alone.

“Everybody was freaking out, because they were all there watching it,” he says.

The report alleges that Viteri was yelling “get the fuck out of here” and pointing his finger toward Officer Charles Phillips, the black officer witnesses had referred to. The report also alleges that the yelling caused a “crowd to gather,” and that Viteri was “highly intoxicated” and began to “resist and flare his arms.”

Viteri says he was drinking, but denies that he was drunk. And he says that he only yelled at the police when he saw that they were beating John.

Numerous witnesses confirm that the police pulled Viteri out of the bar. They started hitting him, and dragged him onto the street by his neck, throwing him chest first onto the ground. He huddled into a ball while officers kicked him in the chest and head, slamming his head into the pavement. Police then pulled his arms behind his back.

Photos of Viteri show a bruise and scrapes on his forehead and ear, and what appear to be nail marks on his neck.

According to the report, Tighe Wingrove was the arresting officer. Internal Affairs records two complaints against Wingrove. A 2009 complaint accused Wingrove and a second officer of physical assault, and the officers were exonerated. A 2008 complaint against Wingrove alleging verbal abuse was withdrawn by the complainant.

Phillips was also named in the arrest report. According to Viteri, Phillips was the most violent on the scene. His Internal Affairs file is certainly cause for concern: complaints alleging physical abuse by Phillips were sustained in 1995 and 1999, meaning that an Internal Affairs “investigation discloses sufficient evidence to clearly prove the allegation made in the complaint.” Allegations of physical abuse in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2005, and of verbal abuse in 2001, were not sustained.

A police spokesperson brushed off the accusations.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 25 of 25
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1. ClintJCL said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 08:38AM

“Pigs. Useless pigs.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:48AM

“"John" is a good friend of mine, what they did to him is UNEXCCEPTABLE.
he's one of the most laid back caring people I know. this is a low that cops/ law enforcement officials seem to crawl to; too often.
cops are here to protect us, we should feel at ease when we see them not fucking terror.
I am appalled that these "officers of the law" have yet to be apprehended.....”

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3. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 11:59AM

“FREE GARY VITERI”

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4. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 11:59AM

“FREE GARY VITERI”

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5. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 01:24PM

“come on IA, do your fucking job. granted pigs will always stick together but you gotta break em so shit like this doesn't keep happening.”

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6. What??? said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 01:31PM

“Black on Black -- what does this imply about safety & social conditions in this area of the city.

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7. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 01:31PM

“Shark Week. Never Forget.”

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8. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 01:37PM

“i mean, bike messengers are generally tards, but this is just silly.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 04:53PM

“Welcome to the 26th district. The police get paid off by drug dealers, watch crimes being committed without interfering, and normally doesn't even show up when called. I know this because I was raised here. Instead of fighting it, join it. Theres alot of money to be made from it, and you can have alot of fun doing it, especially if you know a few of the cops and own a bar. Personally, I run a bar on tulip and albert st, and have made several deals that allow me to do many things under the radar... and there's alot of money to be made from it. Not even the State, or L&I can shut me down without the help of the local district!!! All I gotta say, is get used to it, or stay in south philly.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 05:56PM

“cop are still people they hid behind there bage & there possy then they feed off each other. they cant control there tempers at that point once it start's to go down. i seen & had experienced cops from all around they are pig's sorry to say they don"t perteck they will serve up an ass woooooopin . i wouldent ask the police for help help your self first. any one could be come a cop now days any way so do not ...........do not ......trust the police fuckem they do suck.
' pine creak awsome documentry”

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11. Anonymous said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 05:58PM

“”

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12. SANTANA said... on Feb 24, 2011 at 07:04PM

“This whole thing angers and saddens me. I feel ashamed that my taxes pay the salaries of these men. And even more ashamed at the city of Philadelphia for letting these unapologetic repeat violent offenders "police" us everyday citizens. "Philly's Finest" is a phrase long forgotten. I hold my head low today and hope restitution finds it's way to the victims of these violent acts.”

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13. jasonhellion said... on Feb 25, 2011 at 01:22PM

“what an outrage, but i mean cmon, what do you expect when you call the cops?”

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14. brakesstopyourbike said... on Feb 25, 2011 at 03:51PM

“It is entirely outrageous to me, shocking even, in seeing this apparent uncaring and uncalled for inability to spell, while acting as a self-righteous idiot. 2 fights at a benefit for friends?

I think you fixed gear idiots are just that and deserve to get beat down.”

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15. Anonymous said... on Feb 25, 2011 at 10:07PM

“@#15- excuse me?? you are making assumptions about people and have nothing to back up what you're saying. so a journalist spelled something wrong and that means these people deserved to get beat up? what is your problem? what are you actually trying to say?”

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16. Anonymous said... on Feb 26, 2011 at 12:03AM

“The days of protecting and serving are long gone. The PPD is full of thugs, bullies, the personality disordered, and even outright sociopaths.
Everyone
***check out "CorruptPhillyCops" channel on YouTube***

to learn more about one of the worst police departments in America.

For example: "A 2004 investigation of the Philadelphia Police Department by an ex-prosecutor revealed that, in effect, over 99% of valid complaints filed with their Internal Affairs Division result in no action being taken against corrupt officers. Also, Philadelphia is the only city of the country's 10 most populous which does not have a civilian review board with the power and authority to discipline and fire corrupt cops. "”

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17. Anonymous said... on Feb 26, 2011 at 07:04AM

“This is why no one cares about the cops of this city, and I think that they need to loose their badges and their rights”

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18. Anonymous said... on Feb 26, 2011 at 02:52PM

“Awww. Hipster got beaten up. Worry not, it is all good.”

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19. brakesmakefunofyouandyoudidntgetthejoke said... on Feb 26, 2011 at 06:28PM

“I make my statements because its just amazing how many people can act as though the police literally roll through town and just choose at random who to beat with their clubs or abuse their authority on.

I can see that clearly half the story was told and explained while there is apparently no need to even check on the police report as to why the force was deemed necessary.

I am sure some cops being people, are like some people who are not cops. Simple, Stupid, Biased and idiots. But not all cops, in fact I am sure MOST are not. I am not a cop, and im not endorsing beating anyone, fixed gear idiots excluded of course. I am merely bored and enjoyed reading the posts, and noticed many misspellings, which I am sure may have been caused by the "outrage". But surely this outrage by so many would have made it to the news outlets and then on to city hall, calling for the firing of everyone in site...

at least have a benefit for those beaten at the original benefit...”

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20. Who Is Anonymous said... on Feb 26, 2011 at 08:07PM

“I wish Anonymous would stick to one position on this....
So confusing all these things to say but no one to actually say them.”

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21. Charlie Sheen said... on Feb 28, 2011 at 02:26PM

“someone link to the youtube vid? DOTcom notation, you kno

seriously, since when does one bike messenger run up on another bike messenger and start hitting him with a stick/baton, at the M room?

also, the whole videotaping someone without his or her permission, illegal under PA law and the reason why the one officer makes the comment about videotaping, is crapola. we're constantly being videotaped by security cameras without our knowledge or consent. i think that's the real story here.”

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22. Anonymous said... on Mar 4, 2011 at 05:46AM

“Everyone talking trash. None of yous were there. We don't know what went off. Witnesses, A group of drunks? Yea take their word. How many times I myself have been drunk and been acting stupid. I watched the video on youtube and saw a large group of drunks running their mouths and screaming while thos cops were doing their job. Lets throw you in the middle of a drunk crowd, Outnumbered and see how you fend for youself. Maybe if people wern't fighting they wouldn't of been there in the first place! If I guy has to say yea I was drinking but I wasn't drunk then he was. Thats my line all the time! Maybe if the crowd would of gave those cops some room, stayed out of it then John would of been able to talk to them. Thats the problem a group of idiots always escalates the situation/scene ect... Nose people would just back of and stay out of it then maybe thos cops could of talked to him instead. But NA! lets all throw our 2 cents in right? See the police, let them do their job, leave them be!”

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23. Anonymous said... on Mar 4, 2011 at 05:48AM

“O! one more thing, If he was beat with sticks and batons why does he have such a little bruise on his head, like rug burn? Wasn't he hit earlier in the head by a guy he was fighting with? One small brusie on the top of his head, but the story reads of him getting BEAT DOWN! I've seen beat downs, This doesn't look like one of them!”

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24. Misconduct said... on Jul 25, 2011 at 10:36PM

“It is unfortunate when a few bad cops cause the public to question the intergrity of an entire force. Police brutality & police misconduct a simply not acceptable--we trust them to protect us, not hurt us. There are some disturbing police brutality videos on www,policebrutalitylawyer.com”

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25. Anonymous said... on Oct 23, 2011 at 06:08AM

“To the naive defenders of criminal cops: Is every victim of the 400-plus Philadelphia cops convicted of crimes since the 1970's always a felon by default of his false arrest? You gullible sheep have been brainwashed into believing that cops can do no wrong and civilians can do no right, just as cops have been deluded into believing that all civilians are the evil enemy and should be dehumanized and attacked.”

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