UPDATE: Internal Affairs is investigating police response to this incident. For the full story, go here.
Sunday night was a festive one in Northern Liberties. The sixth-annual 2nd Street Festival brought in thousands of people for bands, beers, and cool food and craft vendors. A fun time was had by all — at least until the party was wrapping up.
According to multiple witnesses, at approximately 11 p.m. on 2nd Street between Brown and Poplar streets, the man seen in this photo punched a woman in the face, sending her to the ground bloody and screaming.
“From out of nowhere, he decked her,” says Andy Molholt, a Philadelphia artist and musician who was helping friends break down their vending booth when the alleged assault occurred. “We had heard them fighting, and she said something about him hitting her in the past. Then she tried to push him away, and he hit her. It was the hardest I’ve ever seen someone punched in the face.”
Several people saw the punch occur.
“She fell to the ground screaming,” says another witness, who asked to remain anonymous. “And then he just nonchalantly walks away. We went to aid her. She was very drunk and crying a lot, and she was bleeding from the face.”
Molholt followed the man and called 911 at 11:08 p.m. He called again at 11:14 p.m. And then again at 11:18 p.m. Finally, he turned on his phone’s videocamera and began questioning the man.
He asked him for his name several times. Eventually, the man said his name was Josephine. Then he told Molholt that he spent the night playing Parcheesi and eating anchovies, slurring his words.
“Your girlfriend is giving a police report right now,” Molholt told him. “And I hope you get fucked.”
Here’s the full video:
Eventually, police arrived at the scene. According to Molholt and other witnesses, police said that their hands were tied because the woman did not want to press charges.
“Because they were a couple, it changed the way they were handling it,” he says. “Even though you have three people calling the cops. Why does it matter that they’re a couple? Just because they are having sex or are married means he can hit her? This was horrible and wrong. I mean, there were at least three witnesses who called 911.”
But not everyone agrees that an arrest should have been automatic.
“Most victims advocates think that mandatory arrests and prosecutions are really bad in domestic violence cases,” says Carol Tracy, executive director of Philadelphia’s Women’s Law Project and co-chair of the city’s Domestic Violence Law Enforcement Task Force. “When it’s intimate partner violence, there are so many complexities around it.”
Tracy says that while there have been some notable prosecutions in domestic violence cases where the victim has not cooperated or testified, they are very rare.
“There may be a very good reason why a woman wouldn’t want him picked up,” says Tracy. “It could be for her safety. You could be putting her in even greater danger when he gets out on bail in 48 hours. She knows better than anybody how dangerous he might be.”
Police public affairs said on Monday that they were unaware of the incident in question. On Tuesday morning they told us they’d be looking into it.
Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.