New Kensington, PA — When police officers preach transparency and trust only to be caught on video beating a man who is in handcuffs, that trust is broken. Residents of New Kensington, PA, now have little reason to trust their police after a recent video uploaded to Facebook began going viral this week.
Two Westmoreland County police officers and a New Kensington police officer are now on leave after a Facebook video showed them beating a handcuffed man so bad that even the police chief called it ‘disturbing.’
“It’s disturbing. We’re not going to condone any misconduct that is done,” New Kensington Police Chief James Klein said in a brief news conference held Friday night.
According to police, they were involved in a pursuit of a 40-year-old suspect, Justin Harvey. After police suspected Harvey of having marijuana on him, a brief vehicle chase and then foot chase ensued.
It is unclear as to what happened prior to Harvey being placed in handcuffs as all we have is the official police account. However, none of the officers have reported any injuries, so it is entirely clear that Harvey did not hurt them, nor did he pose a threat after being placed in handcuffs.
As the video begins, we see police on top of Harvey as he yells, “I can’t Breathe.” According to the person who took the video, Andrea Baker, it was those words that made her go to her door and start filming. Baker posted the video online Friday along with the following statement:
I heard someone outside screaming “I can’t breath” so I went to look and seen this.. I wish I could’ve got it from the beginning. They were stepping on his neck, punching and shooting him with their taser gun while he’s already hand cuffed on the ground
As the video continues, Harvey is still pleading with officers, telling them, “I can’t breathe.” One cop is seeing repeated punching Harvey as two others assault him off camera.
Instead of stepping back and giving the man, who is in handcuffs at this time, some room for air, one of the officers stands on him — and begins jumping up and down.
When the officer is done ‘surfing’ on top of Harvey, another officer grabs the chain in between the handcuffs and pulls the beaten man up. Harvey is then placed in a choke hold, thrown onto the back of the police car and elbowed for good measure before being put in the back seat.
According to police, Harvey actually pulled a pistol from his pants during the pursuit and ignored their orders to drop it. Amazingly enough, instead of shooting Harvey for pulling the gun, the officers claim they allowed him to continue ignoring their commands. Harvey then allegedly threw the gun along with another object over the fence. He was then held at gunpoint by Officer Biricocchi.
According to police, Harvey continued to resist being held at gunpoint and they deployed a taser. As they were tasering him, Harvey reached for the taser, according to police.
It appears that the video begins when two other officers arrive as Harvey is on the ground.
According to officials, Harvey is charged with receiving stolen property, disarming a law enforcement officer, fleeing or attempting to elude an officer, resisting arrest and reckless driving.
“It was just disturbing. The action of the cops after he’s in cuffs is very disturbing. I thought the New Ken police were better than that,” said Harvey’s cousin, Jerris Price.
Perhaps Justin Harvey is a bad person, or, perhaps he is not. However, that is irrelevant now as police were caught on video depriving him of his human rights by continuing to assault him after he’d been restrained.
Any chance of actual justice coming from this case has been tainted by the officers’ decision to beat a man in handcuffs.
“It’s disheartening because you want to build trust with the community but when you look at videos like that, how can you suggest that? One officer standing on the back of this young man, another officer punching him, another officer jumping off his back, all while this young man is handcuffed,” Harvey’s attorney, Todd Hollis said.