Officer who pepper sprayed kneeling Black Lives Matter protesters in Philadelphia faces criminal charges

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Philadelphia protesters gassed, maced on I-676 taking legal action
Some protesters are taking legal action after a demonstration spilled onto I-676 in the heart of Philadelphia earlier this month, leading law enforcement to fire tear gas and use pepper spray in the middle of rush hour traffic.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia police officer caught on camera pepper spraying kneeling protesters at a Black Lives Matter event on June 1 will face criminal charges.

District Attorney Larry Krasner announced officer Richard Paul Nicoletti, 35, would face one count of possession of an instrument of crime and three counts each of simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and official oppression.

Nicoletti assaulted three protesters with pepper spray while they knelt on the highway during a Black Lives Matter protest.

Nicoletti turned himself in to authorities Wednesday morning ahead of the announced charges.

Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby said the organization "will provide an appropriate defense for officer Nicoletti as this process moves forward."

Police deploy tear gas as protesters block Vine Street Expressway in Philly on June 1, 2020.

Nicoletti was among the state and local authorities who responded to a large group of protesters who had walked onto I-676 and stopped traffic on June 1. At approximately 5:00 p.m., the SWAT unit, including Nicoletti, wearing the full SWAT uniform and gas masks, arrived in the westbound lanes of I-676

In video of the incident, Nicoletti was seen carrying a pepper spray can while he approached four kneeling protesters. Investigators say he then sprayed two of the protesters in the face. He also was seen on video pulling down the goggles of one of the protesters, before spraying her again in the face.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and Mayor Jim Kenney publicly apologized for authorizing the use of tear gas and pepper spray on protesters that spilled onto Interstate 676.

Investigators say he then proceeded to the third protester, who was sitting hunched over to protect his face with his legs crossed. Nicoletti reached down, grabbed and threw the protester onto his back, spraying him with pepper spray while he was lying down and standing back up. Unable to see, the protester swung at the officer but did not make contact, investigators said.

The fourth protester, who was standing nearby, was not sprayed. None of the four were taken into police custody.