Calling it “a good example of why it is critically important that a full investigation is done before conclusions” are drawn, Boston Police Commissioner William Evans told reporters Tuesday that numerous witness reports contradict claims that an off-duty officer used excessive force in an online video that went viral earlier this year.
The incident happened near the Arlington MBTA station on May 24, when the officer was driving his personal vehicle and heard a pedestrian tap his back window with an umbrella.
Believing his window to be broken, Evans said, the officer gave chase after what he thought was a potential felony arrest. It turns out the window was only smudged.
At the time, witness Stephen Harlowe uploaded the video to his Facebook account, where it’s since been viewed nearly 1.5 million times.
His footage begins in the middle of the interaction, with an off-camera Harlowe heard accusing the officer of using excessive force and slamming the man’s head onto the sidewalk.
But that never happened, Evans said.
“The statement of the individual who posted his cellphone [video] were directly contradicted by clear evidence and other witness’s accounts,” Evans said.
Internal affairs spoke with seven civilian witnesses, seven police officers and the victim himself, Evans said. Investigators also reviewed footage from two cellphones and a nearby surveillance camera.
All of those witnesses — including the victim himself—told investigators that he tripped while running away, not that he was tackled, Evans said.
The victim and witnesses also denied claims that the officer was slamming his face into the concrete, Evans said.
“Like most cases, no case is perfect, so there are a minor issues that we could’ve done better,” Evans acknowledged. “An appropriate discipline action will be taken to deal with that.”
Evans noted that the department initiated its own investigation after seeing the video circulate online, and that no external complaint was filed with the department over the incident.