District Attorney said protesters could have been charged with failure to disperse
A Pennsylvania police officer who was seen on video kicking a protestor in Erie sitting on the street during clashes on May 30 will not face criminal charges, Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri announced on Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference, Daneri said the officer’s actions did not warrant prosecution. He added that the officer, who has not been identified by city officials, had the right to use that kind of force under the circumstances.
The protestor, 21-year-old Hannah Silbaugh, will also not face charges from the incident.
The altercation occurred shortly before midnight on May 30 amid nationwide demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man who died in police custody on May 25.
Pennsylvania police said several hundred people descended on City Hall at night and began spray painting the building, breaking windows, pulling parking meters out of the ground, vandalizing shops and restaurants, and throwing objects at local police. Officers used tear gas as they tried to disperse the crowd.
Video footage shared on Twitter shows the officer approaching Silbaugh as she sat on the ground in the middle of the street with her hands held against her face.
The officer then aggressively kicked her in the chest and she falls over. Silbaugh filed an internal affairs complaint alleging that the officer assaulted her by kicking her.
Daneri said that at the time Silbaugh was kicked, police and a law enforcement vehicle needed to get past a line of protesters to attend to more serious violence in the area.
In a June 15 press conference, Erie Mayor Joe Schember said an investigation into the matter concluded that the officer followed approved procedures and his use of force was technically justified.
Schember called the officer a veteran of the force “who has no prior complaints and has never exhibited any kind of behavior that warranted disciplinary action.”
However, the mayor said the officer’s actions on this occasion did warrant action, and announced that he would be suspended for three days without pay and placed on desk duty until completing sensitivity training.
The mayor also noted that similar training would be required for the entire police department.
Daneri said the protesters could have been charged with failure to disperse, but his office declined to file those charges because of the facts and in the interest of moving forward.
Silbaugh’s lawyer, Timothy McNair, has taken legal steps toward filing a lawsuit.
With reporting from The Associated Press.
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